McDonalds drive-thru ‘made for social distancing’, says Environment Secretary

The Environment Secretary has said drive-thru restaurants such as McDonald’s are “made for social distancing” ahead of an anticipated relaxation of the lockdown rules.

At the Downing Street press conference on Friday, George Eustice said it was safe for takeaway food shops to reopen.

His comments come as Boris Johnson is expected to reveal plans for easing the UK’s coronavirus lockdown on Sunday.

Many familiar high street chains including McDonald’s, Greggs and KFC chose to shut their doors during the lockdown.

When asked about fast-food stores reopening, Mr Eustice said: “I think our view is that probably a McDonald’s drive-thru is made for the social distancing situation we are in, in that people do not leave their car, they place their order and someone passes a bag of food to them at the end through a kiosk.”

Coronavirus – Wed May 6, 2020
Drivers queued for the KFC in Basingstoke, Hampshire, which reopened to provide a drive-thru service only (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Unlike many other businesses, fast-food outlets were not mandated to close during the lockdown.

Some restaurants have begun the process of reopening, with KFC opening around 100 of its branches for delivery or drive-thru.

McDonald’s has conducted trials on reopening stores, with 15 restaurants opening for deliveries from next week.

Asked if outlets could have stayed open during the crisis, Mr Eustice said: “While clearly restaurants and pubs had to close, we were quite keen to keep that capacity to be able to do takeaway food for people.”

He suggested reduced footfall in town centres, staff anxiety and a sense of what was “socially acceptable” given the stay-at-home message had led to places such as McDonald’s and KFC closing.

Mr Eustice added: “I think it is quite possible for these venues to reopen and reopen safely, we never mandated that they should close.

“I think some of those food-to-go businesses will probably be seeking to learn lessons from what supermarkets have done as they consider tentatively reopening.”

Coronavirus – Fri May 1, 2020
Social distancing in supermarkets may provide a model for fast food restaurants to follow, the Environment Secretary said (Yui Mok/PA)

All restaurants will be deep cleaned prior to reopening, with new safety measures such as Perspex screens and floor markings.

Staff will also receive protective equipment, such as non-medical grade face masks, and have their temperatures taken with “contactless thermometers” before shifts.

Earlier this month Greggs pulled back on plans to reopen its first sites to the public next week over fears it could attract crowds.

The highly popular bakery chain announced it would carry out the opening trial behind closed doors over fears customers will flock in large numbers.

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