Drinkers at pubs and bars in England may have to leave their names and contact details in a guest book so they can be traced if they come into contact with a punter who tests positive for coronavirus.
Officials are understood to be looking at the measure in order to fulfil the ambition of re-opening the hospitality sector as early as July 4 and aid the NHS test and trace programme.
Diners leaving their contact details at restaurants when making reservations could also play a role in helping tracers track down possible cases so they can self-isolate for 14 days.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said no decision on the guest books had been made but said it was being considered, as well as customers being encouraged to order drinks through apps.
Mr Hancock said: “That’s the sort of thing we’re looking at for how do you make it safe to open things.
“And things like wearing a face mask which reduces the transmission clearly, about how the seating is arranged because face to face is much more dangerous than back to back and there’s more transmission than side to side.”
The proposal would enhance contact tracers’ ability to track down individuals who an infected person has come into contact with in order to isolate them and prevent further infections.
The Health Secretary added: “This is something they’ve done in New Zealand and what happens is you simply ensure that when you take a restaurant booking, for instance, when somebody tests positive and have been in that venue in proximity you will be able to contact the people who might be at risk.”
Meanwhile, the head of the Office of National Statistics has said the UK is moving into a period of “surveillance” of Covid-19.
Sir Ian Diamond said: “I think we are moving into a new phase, the virus certainly hasn’t gone away and we need to move into a period of surveillance and real vigilance to identify any outbreaks and move to get on top of them really, really quickly.”
The UK is currently seeing about 3,000 new infections per day. Sir Ian said the ONS is currently running one of the largest surveys it has ever done to monitor for an uptick in cases as the lockdown restrictions are lifted.
He added: “My own belief is that this virus is going to be with us for a very long time.”
and we are going to have to be absolutely vigilant to check we are on top of the outbreaks which will come.”
Sir Ian said current data suggests about 3.5 million people in the UK have either had coronavirus or have natural antibodies to it.