Study: 10pm coronavirus curfew on pubs and restaurants did nothing

England’s 10pm coronavirus curfew on pubs had ‘no effect’ on the spread of the virus last autumn, study suggests

  • Scientists looked at data from nearly 4,000 Britons last summer and autumn
  • Controversial curfew had ‘no measurable effect’ on reducing social contacts
  • London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine also looked at Rule of Six

England’s 10pm coronavirus curfew on pubs and restaurants did nothing to reduce the spread of the disease, a study has suggested.

Scientists looked at data from nearly 4,000 Britons to measure the effect of various lockdown measures last summer and autumn.

They found the controversial curfew, introduced on September 24, had ‘no measurable effect’ on reducing the number of contacts people mingled with.

The policy was heavily criticised by hospitality bosses who said it was yet another blow to one of the hardest-hit sectors during the pandemic.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan even claimed at the time the curfew led to increased social mixing on the streets and on public transport after final orders.  

But the latest study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found there was no ‘appreciable effect’ either way.

The team also reviewed how effective the Rule of Six, the Tier system, and work from home guidance was at reducing social contacts.

England’s 10pm coronavirus curfew on pubs and restaurants did nothing to reduce the spread of the disease, a study has suggested 

The Rule of Six, introduced on September 14, caused more than one third of people to reduce their number of close contacts. 

The impact of the tier system was found to be mixed, with Tier 1 and 2 having little impact on the average number of contacts, but Tier 3 reducing contacts.

Pubs, restaurants and cafes have never been coronavirus hotspots, local public health directors have claimed.

Despite hospitality venues facing hugely damaging restrictions, there has never been a ‘terribly big risk’ of someone catching the disease in them, they said.

Greg Fell, director of public health in Sheffield, and Dr Richard Harling, his counterpart in Staffordshire, told MPs last month the bulk of transmission has always been in people’s homes.  

The hospitality industry has been crippled financially during the Covid crisis and heavily penalised under almost all lockdown tiers. Under the current national shutdown, venues have been forced to close for everything except takeaways.

In Tier 3 areas the rules were just as tough, and in Tier 2 alcohol could only be served with ‘substantial meals’, pubs and bars were forced to close unless operating as restaurants and last orders were at 10pm.    

With the 10pm rule, one quarter recorded a smaller number of social interactions, but nearly one fifth increased their contacts. 

Dr Christopher Jarvis, assistant professor at LSHTM and the lead author of the paper, said: ‘To put these changes in context, the full national lockdown in March reduced average daily contacts from an estimated 10.8 to 2.8 – a 74 per cent reduction.

‘In absolute terms, the changes following more recent restrictions were relatively small, this may indicate that restrictions were applied at a point when individuals had already lowered their contacts, and not that the restrictions did not have an effect.

The Government has since admitted there was ‘no hard evidence’ behind its decision to go with the curfew.

Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, said in December it was a ‘policy decision’ designed to limit the amount of time people spent indoors together, where Covid spreads most easily. 

But he conceded the intervention was not backed up with any scientific proof because curfews ‘are not something you can model with any degree of accuracy’. 

Hospitality bosses are demanding all pubs, restaurants and hotels must be allowed to reopen from April as pressure continues to grow on Boris Johnson before he unveils his ‘road map out of lockdown’ on Monday.

Business chiefs are also calling for a radical overhaul of the lockdown Tier system as part of efforts to prevent mass job losses.

Trade group UK Hospitality has submitted a document to the Prime Minister ahead of next week’s announcement, urging venues to be allowed to trade in all Tiers other than Tier 4, which is already considered, in everything but name, a full lockdown. 

Under the Government’s current rules, all hospitality venues are forced to close in Tier 3 areas, while those in Tier 2 can only operate if they serve customers a ‘substantial meal’.

UK Hospitality says the industry lost £72 billion in sales in 2020, its worst year on record, and is now approaching a period where venues have been closed nationally for more than half of the last 12 months.

The document, seen by the Telegraph, said: ‘The tier system that was in place as the country entered lockdown is unviable for the sector and must be reformed ahead of reopening.’  

It comes after furious pub bosses stormed out of a heated Government meeting earlier today. 

The PM is expected to allow pubs to reopen in May with a maximum of two households allowed to sit together indoors and the rule-of-six applying outside. 

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