PUB curfews at 10pm WON’T work to curb new coronavirus infections, scientists have warned.
Members of the Government’s Sage committee have expressed concern over a lack of scientific backing to the new restrictions on Brits – and said they might not help stop the spread of the virus.
The PM’s new measures mean all restaurants and pubs will have to close at 10pm, face masks will have to be worn in more places, with heftier fines, and office workers have been told to get back to working from home.
But University College London Professor Robert West, a member of Sage, said: “Closing early will have some impact but I don’t think it will be anything like enough, even with the other measures announced, to stop the increase.
According to Professor West evidence from previous changes to licensing hours causes a “drinking equilibrium”.
He told The Times: “People have an amount they want to drink… you might have some decrease, but it won’t be proportionate to the reduction in hours.”
And another member of Sage said he didn’t think the measures went anywhere near far enough to have a significant difference.
Professor John Edmunds, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said the restrictions on pubs and restaurants are “fairly trivial”.
He said: “That will have a small impact on the epidemic, I don’t think the measures have gone anywhere near far enough.
Professor Edmunds even claimed the measures in Scotland, which mirror the PM’s measures but have an additional ban on households meeting indoors, did not go far enough to stem the rising tide of new coronavirus cases.
People in Wales have to follow even stricter rules with a 10pm booze ban meaning people won’t be able to buy alcohol anywhere including from off-licences and supermarkets.
Northern Ireland has rolled out similar measures to Scotland, with a ban on different households meeting indoors.
Professor Edmunds told BBC Radio 4 Today Programme the March lockdown had been a “combination of many, many, many different measures” all brought in at once to reduce the R number from 2.7 to 0.7.
But if “you break up” the measures they will only have a very small effect.
When asked if the R number could shrink to 1 to save Christmas, Professor Edmunds said: “I suspect not. There’s a chance, of course there’s a chance.”
He added: “I think we will continue to see an increase of the epidemic.”
If there were going to be stricter measures put in place, Professor Edmunds urged the Government to roll them out “as fast as possible”.
But Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab denied suggestions the new measures weren’t grounded in science, calling the scientists’ concerns “goldilocks criticism – too hard, too soft”.
According to figures from Public Health England only 5 per cent of new cases have come from pubs.
NO LOCKDOWN BY CHRISTMAS
He insisted that “if everyone plays by the rules” then a national lockdown might not be needed over Christmas.
He told Sky News: “Let’s hope that we can get through the winter months if we take these measures and if everyone plays by the rules, and we go into Christmas not needing to go into that national lockdown with all the impact on society and families but also the damage it would do to businesses.”
When pressed on the 10pm curfew, Mr Raab stressed that people drinking late at night was causing “compliance with the guidance” to go out the window.
He said: “So we’re taking this measure, we’re confident based on the evidence that we’ve got domestically and internationally that it’s one element of those that we need to make.”
Hospitality leaders have warned that the new restrictions are a potentially “fatal blow” to struggling pubs and restaurants.
UK Hospitality chief exec Kate Nicholls said: “These restrictions are a further, potentially fatal, blow for many hospitality businesses.
“In isolation, they may appear moderate, but the cumulative effect is going to be hugely damaging.
“Consumer confidence is going to take another hit and we cannot hope to recover while confidence remains low.”
As many as 6,500 hospitality jobs have been cut in the last week, with 450 staff going from Wetherspoons.
Hospitality giant Whitbread, the owner of the Beefeater, Brewers Fayre and Premier Inn brands — revealed it planned about make 6,000 people redundant.