Published: 11:21 BST, 26 September 2020 | Updated: 12:25 BST, 26 September 2020
Boris Johnson’s 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants was based on ‘back of the fag packet calculations’ and not advocated by Sage, Government sources have claimed.
Insiders said the tightening of coronavirus restrictions departed from the advice given by the Prime Minister’s top scientists and was not grounded in thorough research.
Members of Sage, the panel of scientific experts chaired by Sir Patrick Vallance, are becoming increasingly frustrated they are being overruled while simultaneously being scapegoated for the harsher measures, according to the Telegraph.
Tuesday’s announcement of a 10pm cut-off for pubs and restaurants was met with dismay from hospitality bosses who damned it as the final nail in the coffin of many venues still only treading water from the first wave.
Insiders said the tightening of coronavirus restrictions departed from the advice given by the Prime Minister’s top scientists and was not grounded in thorough research. Pictured: London on Thursday
Members of Sage, the panel of scientific experts chaired by Sir Patrick Vallance, are becoming increasingly frustrated they are being overruled while simultaneously being scapegoated for the harsher measures. Pictured: Boris Johnson
The measure also raised eyebrows in the scientific community, where a former World Health Organisation director, Professor Karol Sikora, said: ‘Where is the evidence? Closing a little early will just hurt so many business owners.’
Sage scientists are reportedly calling on the Government to release their advice to exonerate them from any part in mooting a pub curfew.
A Government spokesperson said the advice will be published online in due course when topics are no longer under live discussion.
Ministers have repeatedly insisted they are being ‘guided by the science’ throughout the pandemic but are also forced to contemplate the economic consequences.
But the move, designed to wrestle down a recent steep spike in infections, infuriated landlords, restaurateurs and customers who said it could drastically cut revenue.
Britain’s coronavirus R rate could now be as high as 1.5, government scientific advisers warned on Friday after rises in all regions of the country
Kate Nicholls of trade body Hospitality UK said takings could be slashed by as much as 50 per cent.
She also pointed to Public Health England Statistics which showed food and drink settings only contributed to five per cent of national outbreaks.
Footage from Thursday night, when the curfew kicked in, saw crowds filing out on to the street with no social distancing after all being ordered to leave at the same time.
Jeremy King, chief executive of Corbin and King, whose stable of London restaurants includes The Wolseley and The Dalauney, demanded to see the evidence behind the curfew.
Scientists advising the Government on coronavirus considered a plan to ask everyone over the age of 45 to shield.
It was suggested those over 45 were at greater risk from the virus, and more likely to die from it, so could be ‘segmented’ from the rest of the population. The suggestion, revealed in papers from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), was eventually advised against, as it was considered unlikely to be successful.
However, it is being kept under review, and news of it follows a similar option drawn up by officials to potentially target over-50s with another lockdown.
The minutes of the 48th meeting of the Sage scientists, held on July 23, state: ‘Although under-45s are at less risk from Covid-19, including lower risk of death, they are nonetheless at some risk and long-term sequelae (consequences) are not well understood.’
The document adds: ‘Around two-thirds of people in the UK live in a household which includes one or more individuals aged 45 and above. Any segmentation based on this age threshold would therefore affect most households.’
The ‘segmentation’ looked at would have involved those over 45 shielding, which early in the pandemic meant staying at home, and avoiding unnecessary contact with others.
Minutes from July 16 note there is likely to be ‘merit’ in segmenting society by age, particularly ‘to vulnerable people and those likely to have more contact with vulnerable people’.
It continues: ‘Data shows that people tend to have more contacts with others around their own age, but also have a significant number of contacts with those 20-30 years older and younger than themselves (likely to mainly be contacts between parents and children).
He told Sky News: ‘What is the science behind putting people out on the streets at 10pm, filling the tubes and buses?’
It comes as officers were this week spotted visiting London pubs to turf out drinkers at 10pm, after City of Westminster ‘fun police’ peered through letterboxes looking for lock-ins following the curfew.
Restrictions currently in place throughout England ban venues from being open after 10pm in a bid to slow the spread of Covid-19 infections.
Almost 18million Britons will be living under even tighter coronavirus restrictions by 6pm tomorrow, after the UK announced a record 6,874 new cases in the last 24 hours.
Drinkers in Leeds indulged in a final night out before they were banned from mixing with other households at home or in pubs, bars, restaurants and parks from midnight, as Wigan, Stockport and Blackpool also saw the draconian measures brought into force.
Household’s in the Welsh town of Llanelli are set to be banned from entering each other’s homes and gardens from 6pm today, with the nation’s two biggest cities of Cardiff and Swansea to follow suit in the next 24 hours. Residents will also be banned from entering or leaving the areas without a ‘reasonable excuse’.
It comes after lockdowns were already imposed in large swathes of the North East and North West of England.
More than a quarter of the UK is set to be under tighter restrictions, including half of the Welsh population.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there had been an ‘acceleration of Covid-19 cases across the country, especially in the North West and the North East’.
‘Working alongside our scientific and public health experts and local leaders, we are prepared to take swift and decisive action to reduce transmission of the virus and protect communities,’ he said. ‘I recognise the burden and impact these additional measures have on our daily lives but we must act collectively and quickly to bring down infections.’
Health chiefs are reportedly mulling over plans to make facemasks compulsory in most places of work, in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus. Office workers are expected to be exempt from the measures when sitting, but will be required to wear a mask when in corridors, lifts or communal areas.
As cases continue to mount London has been placed on the national lockdown watchlist because of a spike in cases and hospital admissions, as the capital’s R rate ticks up to between 1.2 and 1.5 – the same level seen in the North West, North East and the Midlands, which have all been stung by additional Covid-19 measures.
London mayor Sadiq Khan has already called for a ban on people mixing in each other’s households, claiming in a conversation with the Prime Minister that ‘if you go too late, we will be in a North East, North West, Birmingham-type situation’.
Hundreds of students in Manchester have been ordered into isolation after 127 tested positive for the virus at the Birley campus and Cambridge Halls at Manchester Metropolitan University, as the rate of spread in the city climbs to 185.6 per 100,000 from 93.2 a week ago.
Number 10’s expert panel SAGE also warned the reproductive rate of the virus may be as high as that for the UK overall.
It is the advisory body’s highest projection since it began tracking how quickly the disease was growing back in June and is slightly up on last week’s estimate of 1.1 – 1.4.
If the R rate – the number of people each infected patient passes the disease on to – remains above one, then the outbreak will continue to grow and cases will keep surging, running the risk that local Covid-19 outbreaks spiral out of control into regional and even national problems.
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News – Boris Johnson’s curfew based on ‘back of a fag packet calculations’