Boris Johnson’s plans to introduce a 10 pm curfew on eateries and pubs have instantly landed in critics’ crosshairs, and are being described as a “crushing blow” for the hospitality sector.
On top of it, Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of UK Hospitality, charged that such an approach will make it harder to control the spread of coronavirus while pointing to official data that no more than 5% of infections have been linked to hospitality venues.
"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,” she argued, adding that a hard closing time will have an adverse effect not only on business as such, but also on attempts to control the spread of the virus.
“…we need to allow time for people to disperse over a longer period,” she called.
Nicholls also addressed similar measures enforced in local lockdowns, which have been declared in a number of COVID-hit locations, arguing they have yielded no positive outcomes but “damaged businesses and cost jobs”.
She demands that a special support package be specially tailored for hospitality, namely restaurants and hotels, saying Whitehall must “recognise this will damage confidence even further” and cause new woes for the sector.
"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," she pointed out.
The Institute of Economic Affairs also called out Johnson’s plans, which would also ban customers from ordering at the bar.
Christopher Snowdon, the head of lifestyle economics at the Institute, warned that while mandatory table service could have merit, having proved effective in Sweden, the new closing time will be devastating to the hospitality sector, which was already suffering after the first lockdown.
"The government should publish the evidence upon which this decision was based," he insisted.
Battling Corona Resurgence
The new measures like curfews at restaurants and bars are set to be enforced from Thursday across England, amid concerns that social distancing rules aren't respected at night.
The United Kingdom is currently witnessing a resurgence in cases of highly contagious COVID-19, as infection rates began to rise in late August, climbing above averages recorded since early May, which saw, at the time, a comparative relief in the international healthcare crisis.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to address the public on Tuesday and introduce new coronavirus-related restrictions, including telling citizens to possibly work from home, in order to prevent a likely second COVID-19 wave, which has of late been deemed as highly probable in the UK and beyond.
The first wave of the coronavirus began to slightly weaken in early May, spawning hopes of the UK government easing the then lockdown. At the time, the government moved to staged ditching of the strict regulations, gradually opening the public sector including pubs and restaurants, and later on – airports and schools.
However, the strict social distancing and facial cover rules, which were left in place as compulsory, have since been ignored by the public, as Brits could be seen hanging out in packed public spots in big companies, in complete defiance of the corona-induced regulations.