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Hospitality curfew ‘crushing blow’ for sector

Pubs, bars and restaurants across England will face a 10pm curfew this week despite data showing fewer than 5% of Covid-19 infections are related to the hospitality industry.

London empty: The on-trade in England was ordered to close from 20 March until 4 July

The UK government plans to introduce the 10pm closure order and make table service compulsory for on-site sales across England from Thursday, 24 September. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have devolved powers to determine their own measures.

The move comes as the UK’s Covid-19 alert level moved to four, meaning transmission of the virus is “high or rising exponentially”.

However, the hospitality industry has warned the restrictions would be “another crushing blow” for the sector, particularly as recent data from Public Health England shows the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases related to hospitality remains low.

Of the 729 new acute respiratory incidents reported by Public Health England in week 37 (7 September to 13 September), 228 were confirmed Covid-19 cases found in care homes and 110 were from workplace settings.

By comparison, only 25 incidents were related to food outlet or restaurant settings, and 39 were from the ‘other’ settings category.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, warned the proposed measures for England would make it harder to control the spread of the virus.

“These restrictions will come as another crushing blow for many hospitality businesses struggling to recover, so it’s crucial these new rules are applied with flexibility,” Nicholls warned. “A hard close time is bad for business and bad for controlling the virus – we need to allow time for people to disperse over a longer period.

“It is hard to understand how these measures are the solution to fighting the disease when government data shows that just 5% of infections out of the home are related to hospitality. Where such restrictions have been put in place locally they have not cut infection rates, merely damaged business and cost jobs.”

Nicholls is urging the UK government to deliver a support package targeted towards the hospitality sector to prevent further job losses and business closures.

“Most critically, government needs to recognise this will damage confidence even further and it is now inevitable that the sector will struggle long into 2021,” Nicholls urged.

“A new support package is now essential. We need to see an early signal that the VAT cut will be extended through to the end of 2021, that the business rates holiday will continue next year, and an enhanced employment support package specifically for hospitality.”

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