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Mon, 19 October 2020

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The 10pm curfew is putting public health and jobs at risk

The 10pm curfew is putting public health and jobs at risk

People are leaving en masse, no longer in socially distanced groups of six, heading onto overcrowded public transport and into supermarkets to pick up alcohol to take along to the “next venue”, writes Daisy Cooper MP. | PA Images

4 min read

There is no evidence that the 10pm curfew is helping protect public health. It throws throngs of pub-goers onto the streets and onto public transport at the same time, as well as putting three million hospitality jobs at risk.

This weekend, pubs, bars, social clubs and restaurants across the country will send a signal: an SOS signal.

The 10pm curfew is putting public health and jobs at risk. If this continues, we will see thousands of vibrant businesses - the backbone of our night time economy - shut their doors for good. 

With Covid-19 cases skyrocketing, no one would dispute the fact that we need to take urgent action to reduce the spread of this dreadful virus. And I wholeheartedly support the Government measures that deliver when it comes to keeping people safe. 

But the 10pm curfew does not do that. Instead it throws throngs of pub-goers onto the streets and onto public transport at the same kicking out time and puts three million hospitality jobs in jeopardy.

Since lockdown eased, pubs and restaurants have gone above and beyond to make sure they are Covid-secure. They absolutely accept that there has to be social distancing. They accept there have to be screens. And they are sanitising everything within sight. 

Business owners have spent thousands to make their premises as safe as possible. Every single business and trade association I have spoken to has said they will do whatever is necessary in future to make sure they stay that way.

But this new measure, the 10pm curfew, sticks out like a sore thumb. That’s because there is no evidence that the curfew itself is going to help to protect public health.

I don’t say this lightly. I have asked Ministers three times to show us the evidence. But Boris Johnson’s Government has repeatedly refused to provide scientific or public health evidence for the curfew. 

Worse still, there is evidence that this curfew is actually bad for public health. 

I’ve watched the footage of crowds streaming out of pubs and restaurants at 10pm. People are leaving en masse, no longer in socially distanced groups of six, heading onto overcrowded public transport and into supermarkets to pick up alcohol to take along to the “next venue” - most likely a house party, with no social distancing and no one to enforce any maximum capacity. 

Looking at the footage, the curfew looks more likely to accelerate the spread of Covid-19 than to reduce it. 

Just when we need to do everything we can to help businesses keep the lights on, the arbitrary curfew does the opposite

It is also damaging our economy. Many restaurants can only fit in one evening sitting now, because time is too tight. Pubs that make most of their weekly takings after 10pm on a Friday and Saturday have seen their revenue utterly decimated. 

Just when we need to do everything we can to help businesses keep the lights on, the arbitrary curfew does the opposite. 

What’s even more frustrating is watching the government fail on the critical measures that really will help keep people safe, like the test and trace system, which is still woefully inadequate. As a result, we are facing a second wave of this dreadful virus and we still don’t have the tools we need to get a grip on the crisis. 

Equally, with furlough coming to an end this month, millions of people are facing redundancy when we know jobs are already scarce. The collapse of our hospitality sector would only add to that crisis. 

With cases on the rise, people are scared. They want the government to act decisively. But those decisions must be based on evidence if they are to work, if they are to reduce the spread of the virus and if they are to get public buy-in. 

It's clear that the Government needs to think again and call time on the curfew. It doesn’t make sense for public health and it's fundamentally bad for business. 

The Liberal Democrats will keep standing up for the hospitality sector. My campaign to #KeepTheLightsOn will see pubs, bars and restaurants around the country flash their lights to signal SOS this weekend. The Government must sit up, take note and call time on the curfew. 

 

Daisy Cooper is the Liberal Democrat MP for St Albans.

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