LONDON: New measures to tackle a rise in Covid-19 cases are to be announced “in the coming days”, a minister has said, after the BBC was told pubs and restaurants could be closed in the worst-affected areas of England.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said the government was “currently considering what steps to take”. He also defended current limits on pub closing times as “commonsensical”. A new three-tier system for local lockdowns is also likely.
Under the system, different parts of the country would be placed in different categories – although ministers are still discussing the precise details of the toughest level of restrictions over the next couple of days.
A final decision on the time period or extent of potential closures has not yet been made and a formal announcement is not likely to come until Monday, according to BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg.
Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has challenged the government to publish the scientific evidence behind the 22:00 closing time for pubs and restaurants in England – and refused to say whether his party would vote in support of the measure in Parliament on Tuesday.
Mr Jenrick said there was “evidence hospitality plays a role” in spreading the virus. But pressed on whether the government would publish this evidence, he told the BBC: “It is commonsensical that the longer you stay in pubs and restaurants, the more likely you are to come into contact with other individuals.”The more drinks that people have, the more likely that some people are to break the rules.”
Meanwhile, Mayor Sadiq Khan has called for an urgent review of the 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants, saying it appeared to be “counter-productive” and causing an increase in Covid infections. Mr Khan, in an update to the London Assembly said: “My view is that the 10pm curfew not only doesn’t appear to be reducing the increase in this virus, but could be counter-productive.
“I have been lobbying the Government to try to review this 10pm curfew.”
He told the Standard today: “It is vital that the Government carry out a review of the 10pm curfew rules as a matter of urgency. It is now clear that the scientific evidence for bringing in the policy was limited, and we continue to see the unintended consequence of increased social mixing in other settings after 10pm.
“This includes worrying pictures of people gathering in the streets and forced to crowd onto public transport together as venues close early.