Figures reveal hospitality industry accounts for just 3% of cases despite damaging restrictions

Hospitality venues facing ‘hugely damaging’ restrictions accounted for less than 3 per cent of coronavirus outbreaks in the month before the second lockdown – with one region reporting just a single incident.

Public Health England figures show that just 128 of 4,687 (2.7 per cent) outbreaks across England in the four weeks to the end of October were linked to bars, cafes, pubs and restaurants. 

Last night, furious industry leaders said the figures showed that the evidence for punitive measures against hospitality businesses was ‘extremely poor and incredibly thin’.

PHE data shows the majority of Covid-19 clusters over October were occurring in care homes (25 per cent), schools and colleges (25 per cent) and at people’s workplaces (24 per cent).

Even hospitals (5.6 per cent) were seeing more outbreaks of the disease than the hospitality sector, despite stringent testing of NHS staff and patients.  

Despite figures suggesting bars, cafes, pubs and restaurants are low-risk areas, 70 per cent of England is now living under Tier 3 restrictions, which heavily penalise the industry. 

Some 38 million people in England will be in the harshest lockdown bracket from this weekend, which mean pubs and restaurants are forced to close for everything except takeaways during what is usually their busiest time of the year.

The Christmas period was viewed as the final chance for these places to try recoup some of the money haemorrhaged during the pandemic. 

Hospitality venues facing 'hugely damaging' restrictions accounted for less than 3 per cent of coronavirus outbreaks in the month before the second lockdown (stock image)

Hospitality venues facing 'hugely damaging' restrictions accounted for less than 3 per cent of coronavirus outbreaks in the month before the second lockdown (stock image)

Hospitality venues facing ‘hugely damaging’ restrictions accounted for less than 3 per cent of coronavirus outbreaks in the month before the second lockdown (stock image) 

One pub industry boss said: ‘They have lost all credibility. The evidence clearly demonstrates the hospitality industry is not a factor in the spread of the disease. PHE’s own analysis backs this up.’

Separately, a government paper published at the end of November justifying hospitality restrictions referred to studies in South-East Asia, but made no assessment of the £500 million measures implemented by British venues to make themselves Covid-secure. 

British Beer and Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin said: ‘This so-called evidence is extremely poor and incredibly thin. 

‘Comparing British pubs with South Korean nightclubs is ridiculous.’

Simon Emeny, chief executive of Fuller’s, said: ‘The Government has decided to sacrifice the hospitality sector to allow other sectors to open with no scientific justification.’ 

The most recent PHE data on Covid-19 clusters in England shows the number of cases originating in bars and restaurants has plummeted even further.

However, the report looks at outbreaks between November 19 and December 17. During half of that time England was in full lockdown with all hospitality shut, so it was inevitable there would be less cases.

The figures show there were 3,674 clusters of coronavirus over those four weeks, 21 of which were in cafes, bars, restaurants and pubs (0.6 per cent).

Care homes were again one of the main hubs of transmission (33 per cent), as was schools (28.5 per cent). 

Hospitals accounted for just over 8 per cent, workplaces 14.8 per cent) and prisons 0.3 per cent. 

The findings will likely be used to demand answers from ministers as to why they have chosen to target pubs and restaurants with economically-crippling measures to curb the spread of coronavirus, even though the official data suggests they are barely to blame and that most cases can be traced back to schools and offices. 

Last month the Government published a policy paper justifying its focus on the hospitality sector in the post-lockdown tier system.

It pointed to four types of evidence, all done in South-East Asia in the early parts of the pandemic.

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) think-tank branded the evidence ‘outdated’ and ‘tenuous’.

The IEA said: ‘Conclusions drawn from, for instance, Asian bars and nightclubs at the start of the pandemic tell us nothing about the safety of Britain’s bars and restaurants in November 2020.’ 

Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the think-tank, accused ministers of ‘cobbling together a handful of studies’ to give their decision a ‘veneer of science’.

Mr Snowdon said: ‘In its efforts to justify carpet bombing the nation’s pubs, SAGE have cobbled together a handful of studies to give it the veneer of science. 

‘None of the studies suggest that pubs or bars are uniquely dangerous, many of them don’t mention pubs or bars at all, and most of them involve outbreaks in Asia in the early days of the pandemic when there was little or no social distancing.

‘SAGE refuse to acknowledge the drop in infections in places like Manchester and Newcastle under the old Tier Two rules. 

‘They do not even attempt to justify the plan to require meals to be served with drinks. 

‘This policy alone will lead to the unnecessary closure of thousands of “wet pubs” and other licensed venues, such as snooker halls and casinos. 

‘Businesses which could be operating safely will be forced to furlough their workforce and accept government grants to stand idle. Who benefits from such wilful destruction?’

Link hienalouca.com

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