Health

Pubs should be open LONGER not closed at 10pm if we want to contain Covid-19, says expert

A CURFEW on pubs, bars and restaurants should be extended – to stop coronavirus spreading, an expert has claimed.

A 10pm closure of much of the hospitality sector was introduced by Boris Johnson on Thursday in an attempt to drive down the spread of Covid-19.

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People leave bars in Soho, London on Friday after the 10pm curfew to combat the rise in coronavirus cases was introduced[/caption]

jake McPherson

Large groups gather outside after pubs kicked out in Bristol at 10pm on Saturday[/caption]

But ministers are under growing pressure to review the new rules amid criticism revellers filling streets en masse after kick-out time.

Crowds of people were pictured on Saturday night gathering in city centres and piling onto public transport, while long queues formed at off licences.

Dr Flavio Toxvaerd, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Cambridge, blasted the new rule as “completely predictable”.

Writing on Twitter, he said: “Create a bottleneck and people will crowd together… could have learned this from other countries.”

But Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden insisted on Sunday that there was “definitely science” behind the curfew, despite a scientist advising the Government saying he had “never heard” the measure discussed at Sage meetings.

PA:Press Association

People leave bars and restaurants at closing time in Soho, London on Friday[/caption]

@Alfie_Clifton

Images on social media appeared to show people packed onto the London Underground after pubs closed at 10pm on Saturday[/caption]

Dr Toxvaerd added: “Each situation calls for tailored solutions, but two general principles apply.

“First, where possible, service capacity and opening hours should be expanded to avoid crowds forming.

“This is especially true for retail and public transport.

Where possible, service capacity and opening hours should be expanded to avoid crowds forming

Dr Flavio ToxvaerdCambridge University

“Second, when demand is concentrated at certain hours of the day, as is the case with pubs, then services need to be staggered.

“For example, access for customers could be managed and time stamped and punters would be required to leave within a set time since arrival.”

Dr Toxvaerd added: “We need to be creative and ensure that we make the least damage to the economy while keeping in mind the effect on social activity on the spread of the disease.”

 

 

It comes as official data shows that pubs and restaurants accounted for less than three per cent of coronavirus infections in the week before the curfew was introduced.

In fact, schools and care homes were responsible for more than two thirds of all positive tests, weekly figures from Public Health England have revealed.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham has called for an urgent review of the “hard” 10pm curfew, warning it may be doing “more harm than good”.

Mr Burnham said the early closing time was leading to a rush to off-licences and creating an incentive for people to gather in each others’ homes.

‘Packed to the rafters’

“I received reports that the supermarkets were absolutely packed out to the rafters with people gathering,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“I think there needs to be an urgent review of the emerging evidence from police forces across the country.

“My gut feeling is that this curfew is doing more harm than good. It creates an incentive for people to gather in the street or more probably to gather in the home.

“That is the opposite of what our local restrictions here are trying to do. I don’t think this has been fully thought through.”

He suggested one option could be to impose a 9pm curfew on alcohol sales in shops to prevent the rush to off-licences after the pubs close.

John Apter, national chairman of the Police Federation, said police had difficulty dispersing large crowds that gathered with only limited numbers of officers available.

“You might only have one or two people in a busy high street at 10pm when hundreds and hundreds of people are coming out on to the streets,” he told Today.

“My colleagues will do the best they can to encourage and coerce people to move on but it is really difficult.

“All that you need is a hostile group that turns against those officers and the resources for that city centre are swallowed up dealing with that one incident.”

Health minister Helen Whately said the Government was keeping an “open mind” about the new coronavirus regulations which came into force in England on Thursday.

Ms Whately said ministers are seeking to learn from experience but that the Government had had to act in response to the rising infection rates.

“It is clearly early days. We have just changed this rule last week,” she told the Today programme.

“We keep an open mind on what is the best way to go about it. The steps that we have taken, particularly with the 10pm curfew, is something that we have done in some places during the course of the summer where we saw localised outbreaks and hospitality being part of the picture.

“We are constantly learning and seeing what has the most impact but we clearly need to take a step because of what we have seen with the rates going up across the country.”

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