Pubs set for fresh restrictions as No 10 cites ‘significant’ hospitality spread

Pubs and restaurants in coronavirus hotspots look set to face fresh restrictions after Downing Street said new data suggests there is “significant” transmission taking place in hospitality settings.

Downing Street said on Thursday that a “range of measures” is being looked at, with a particular focus on northern England, where it says infection rates are rising fastest.

Ministers are considering fresh financial packages to help areas and industries hardest hit by lockdowns amid widespread calls for support.

But with infection rates soaring in cities including Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle, regional leaders criticised the Government for not consulting them ahead of changes.

Leaked Government documents disclosed that a new three-tier system for restrictions will be announced on Monday before measures come into force on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said: “We are seeing coronavirus cases rise across the entire country but they are rising faster in the North East and the North West.

“We are keeping the data under close review and we are considering a range of options to reduce the spread of the virus in order to protect communities and to protect the NHS.”

Daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK
Daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK

He suggested new restrictions on hospitality could be introduced in England as ministers come under pressure to act after Scotland announced fresh restrictions on the hospitality sector.

“Early data does suggest that a significant proportion of exposure to the virus is seen in the hospitality sector, and that is even more pronounced in younger age groups where we have been seeing the most rapid rise in infections,” the spokesman said.

“The data is new and we will continue to gather evidence and review it.”

He added he is not yet in a position to publish it.

Those who now claim that further measures are not needed, will in about ten days from now, when hospital admissions are at a critical stage argue that we didn’t do enough. We must do all we can to prevent our ICUs #NHS from becoming overwhelmed #COVID19

— Nadine Dorries 🇬🇧#StayAlert (@NadineDorries) October 8, 2020

Health minister Nadine Dorries said further measures are needed because hospital admissions could be at a “critical stage” in around 10 days’ time.

Earlier, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick did not rule out telling pubs to shut as he warned cases in the North and Midlands areas including Nottingham were “rising fast and that is a serious situation”.

He added to BBC Breakfast that he was working with Chancellor Rishi Sunak to consider fresh support for the hospitality sector because businesses could be put in a “really difficult, intolerable position”.

Downing Street also hinted at financial help and did not rule out a fresh furlough scheme for the worst affected industries and per-head funding for local authorities.

“Any decisions we take will not be made lightly; protecting jobs, particularly the two million in the UK’s hospitality sector, has been a priority throughout our response to the pandemic,” the Prime Minister’s spokesman said.

Ministers will announce a new three-tier Local Risk Levels approach to restrictions on Monday before they come into force on Wednesday, according to leaked documents disclosed by the Nottingham Post.

But the papers suggested that, while levels one and two have been signed off, ministers are still debating the details of level three.