Christmas household bubbles plan branded ‘mockery’ of pub restrictions

Plans to relax rules on household mixing over the Christmas period have been branded a “mockery” of restrictions that will remain in place for pubs and the wider hospitality sector.

According to Government guidance published on Tuesday, people cannot meet up with their Christmas bubbles of up to three households inside pubs, hotels, retail, theatres or restaurants between December 23 and 27.

This is despite those within Christmas bubbles being able to visit each other’s homes and stay overnight during that period.

Rules covering meeting inside hospitality settings will depend on what tier of restrictions in England a venue is in.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: “These plans for Christmas make a mockery of the extra restrictions being placed on pubs and the economic devastation they are facing this Christmas.

“How can it be that pubs cannot properly open while households can mix in private settings?

“The Government data has consistently shown that house-to-house transmission is one of the highest, whereas hospitality has accounted for as little as 2% of Covid incidences when open.

“Pubs are a controlled, safe and regulated environment to socialise in – following all Government guidelines and working with NHS track and trace. They are part of the solution for a safe and enjoyable Christmas, not the problem.

“It seems the Government has chosen to inflict unnecessary pain and irreversible damage on our sector without publishing evidence alongside these decisions.”

Labour MP Emma Hardy, who represents Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle, asked on Twitter: “Why can families not meet in a restaurant over the ‘relaxation’ period during Christmas? Our hospitality trade will not recover if they miss out on trade during this crucial period.”

Ms Hardy said she had submitted questions to the Government asking for “the evidence base” for the decision.

Ms McClarkin argued that pubs should be “fully compensated” if they could not open over Christmas.

“Christmas is the most important time of the year for trade in our sector,” she added.

“This year more than ever. Without it, thousands will not survive the winter unless the Government does the right thing and steps in with financial support to help them. That means grants that fully cover their fixed costs, like during the first lockdown.

“We all need some festive cheer after this tough year – and we want everyone to be able to enjoy a beer in their local pub with family and friends this Christmas, safely.

“After all, Christmas just won’t be the same if we can’t go to the local.”

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