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With jobs and livelihoods hanging by a thread, there is no logic in preventing outdoor hospitality from re-opening until April

With jobs and livelihoods hanging by a thread, there is no logic in preventing outdoor hospitality from re-opening until April

The Prime Minister’s ‘roadmap’ for the lifting of Covid restrictions will allow six people to meet outdoors but won’t see outdoor hospitality open again until April, writes Emma Lewell-Buck MP. | PA Images

3 min read

The government have always claimed they are being ‘led by the science’ but when it comes to the hospitality industry, this has simply not been the case.

When my Grandad John retired and my Nana Mary passed away, the pub was where he would go to catch up with friends and find out what was happening in the community. It helped keep his mind active and combatted his loneliness.

Pubs and hospitality are the heart of our community in South Shields, an industry that has been closed longer than other sectors, where right now every single day counts. Behind every closed door of a pub, bar or restaurant, there are people whose jobs and livelihoods are hanging by a thread. I know in my own area many have told me their doors will never open again, leading to more boarded-up buildings and job losses not just in these venues themselves, but across their whole supply chain. 

The Prime Minister’s ‘roadmap’ for the lifting of Covid restrictions will see 10 million pupils return en masse to education in March and will allow six people to meet outdoors but won’t see outdoor hospitality open again until April.

The government have always claimed they are being ‘led by the science’ but when it comes to the hospitality industry, this has simply not been the case. Pubs, bars and restaurants have invested heavily in making their venues Covid-secure, only to be subjected to an arbitrary 10pm curfew – which the government is still unable to provide any scientific or logical rationale for – then closed and now among the last places to re-open.

Behind every closed door of a pub, bar or restaurant, there are people whose jobs and livelihoods are hanging by a thread

Figures from Public Health England show that between July and October last year hospitality accounted for just over 5% of infections, yet educational settings recorded infections four times higher than that. Although impossible to measure, when infection rates have continued to rise in some areas throughout lockdown, the main cause is predicted to be people having contact outdoors or in households. 

Yet, as it stands come March, six people could sit at a park bench, have a BBQ and drinks, share cutlery, chat to other groups who approach them without observing social distancing then get up and leave.

The Prime Minister thinks this is safer than the same six people arriving at a covid-secure outdoor hospitality venue, leaving their details for tracking and tracing, sanitising, sitting at a sanitised table, using sanitised cutlery and if others approach them, staff being able to ask them to adhere to social distancing and return to their own table. When they get up and leave, the table and seating is then fully sanitised.

His response to me when I asked him to explain this logic was it “lies in containing a pandemic, and I think people in this country understand that”. They don’t understand it because it is not safer for people to meet up and socialise in a non-covid secure environment than in a covid-secure one.

For an industry that is estimated to have lost over one million jobs alone in the first lockdown and approximately £25bn in revenue, they, and all of us, deserve better than this glib nonsense from the Prime Minister.

 

Emma Lewell-Buck is the Labour MP for South Shields. 

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