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‘Illogical’ move to tier three shuts London bars

Bars in London will be forced to close from tomorrow (16 December) as the city moves to the highest level of Covid-19 restrictions, a measure branded “illogical” by trade group UK Hospitality.

Bars in London must close from 00:01 on Wednesday 16 December

Health secretary Matt Hancock announced yesterday (14 December) that as a result of rising case numbers, London, most of Essex and areas in Hertfordshire will move into tier three from midnight on Wednesday. It is not known how long the measures will last for but the next review of the tier system is due to be held on 23 December.

In London, the weekly case rate of 225 per 100,000 people is the highest regional rate in the country. In south Essex, case rates are more than 200 per 100,000 people in 10 out of 14 local authorities and in South Hertfordshire, case rates are greater than 150 per 100,000 in four out of the five local authorities bordering London.

The UK government introduced the tougher three-tier system after the end of a second lockdown in England on 2 December. Under the rules, bars and pubs in tier two regions can only trade if customers have a ‘substantial meal’, while venues in tier three must shut and can only offer takeaway services.

Trade body UK Hospitality criticised the measures placed on the on-trade as there was “still no hard evidence that hospitality venues are a significant contributor for the spike in infections”.

UK Hospitality chief executive, Kate Nicholls, said: “Putting hospitality businesses back into lockdown, which is effectively what tier three amounts to, is not going to tackle increasing infection rates.

“The spread is being predominantly driven through schools – even the mayor of London has pointed this out and called for schools to stay shut until January. Yet, once again, it is hospitality that will take the hit. The government is cracking down on hospitality for an increase in the infection rates that occurred during a period when hospitality was forcibly closed. It makes no sense.

“So many pubs, restaurants, bars, cafés and hotels, having invested so much to make their venues safe, are only just clinging on by the skin of their teeth, but will be forced to take another huge hit. The burden of a region being moved into tier three falls almost exclusively on hospitality businesses. It is an illogical tactic that fails to tackle Covid effectively but does push businesses closer towards failure.”

Nicholls called on the government to “rethink its strategy” and also consider moving current tier three areas, including Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham, into tier two as case numbers continue to fall.

‘Livelihoods at stake’

In response to the UK capital’s move into tier three, London mayor Sadiq Khan called on the government to support businesses affected by strengthened restrictions.

He said: “The economic impact on businesses could be catastrophic with hundreds of thousands of livelihoods at stake. I am asking ministers urgently to put in place a compensation scheme for all lost income for any businesses affected by any further restrictions during this crucial festive period based on last year’s returns.

“2020 has been a dismal year for our once-thriving hospitality sector and world-famous cultural scene, which both contribute billions to our economy and attract millions of visitors. Without protecting them, there can be no meaningful recovery.

“Time is running out to get the virus under control in our city, which is why I urge the government to heed my call and provide us with the extra support we desperately need.”

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