Latest data since the lockdown came into force shows that trading standards, environmental health, and other council officers visited 38,808 London businesses and advised on closures and social distancing. 731 businesses were found to be failing to comply with the rules. 529 businesses closed voluntarily when instructed to do so, but 262 Prohibition Notices were issued to those premises failing to comply.
LTS says that the number one rule breaker was the beauty service industry, with the other two main offenders being mobile phone shops and vape shops.
Local authority enforcement teams dealt with 2,426 enquires relating to social distancing from businesses, employees and the general public and have given advice to businesses as to how best to manage this safely.
Stephen Knight, LTS Operations Director, said: “Borough Trading Standards teams are central to the local effort to ensure the continuing lockdown is effective. Whilst the vast majority of businesses have so far complied with the law, we are seeing an increasing number of businesses attempting to open illegally as the lockdown goes on. Borough trading standards officers are working extremely hard to help businesses find ways to trade safely, where possible within the rules. However, enforcement action will be taken where necessary to keep Londoners safe.”
Cllr Clare Coghill, London Councils’ Executive Member for Business, Europe and Good Growth, said: “Boroughs are grateful for all the businesses across the capital that put the wellbeing of their communities first by complying with the restrictions introduced since the coronavirus outbreak. Covid-19 clearly remains a massive challenge. We understand businesses want to get back up and running, but this must only be when it is safe to do so. Although lockdown guidance has recently changed, it remains unsafe for certain businesses and venues to open to the public.”
Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) Chief Executive, Leon Livermore, said: "I am pleased to learn that the vast majority of London businesses are behaving responsibly and respecting the coronavirus lockdown.”
It remains a crying shame that vaping was not recognised for its harm reduction potential by the government.
Back in March, John Dunne, UK Vaping Industry Association Director, said: “The UK vaping industry, including retail outlets, online stores, manufacturers and compliance specialists, has a vital role to play in communities across the country, both from an economic and public health perspective and we want the Government to recognise this in their response to the unprecedented challenge we face.”
“In particular, if vape shops were to close it would mean that smokers and vapers would not have access to specialist advice. Keeping the vaping sector open for business is also crucial to meeting the Government’s target for England to be smoke free by 2030.”
His call to the government was echoed in April by University College London’s Dr Lion Shahab: “I’ve done a fair amount of work to evaluate the positive effects that e-cigarettes can have on population health. In these uncertain times, I would urge the UK government to extend the ‘essential status’ to vape shops, to allow people who’ve successfully stopped smoking continued access to vape products, in order to prevent them from returning to smoking and thereby putting an additional strain on the NHS during this pandemic.”
The handful of stores breaking the lockdown may have brought a little shame on the industry, but the greater shame is the government’s and the missed opportunity to maintain the ability of smokers to switch to vaping during the COVID pandemic.