A health minister has suggested that “late-night intimacy” is one reason for the Government’s decision to introduce a 10pm closing time for entertainment and hospitality venues.
In a debate on Covid-19 regulations, Lord Bethell said establishments that follow the rules are unlikely to “present a threat” but he added that not all do.
He told the Lords: “If a hospitality venue like a pub has good contact tracing when you arrive, socially-distanced seating, table service and booking then there is no reason why that should present a threat.
“But not all pubs abide by those disciplines. Mass crowding either inside or outside and late-night intimacy, mixed groups, this is where the disease spreads.
“And that is why we have cracked down including through the 10pm curfew which sends a clear signal to hospitality venues that they have to abide by the regulations.”
Earlier, former Labour cabinet minister Lord Blunkett said the “elephant in the room” was whether the Eat Out to Help Out scheme might have driven a spike in infections.
He added: “Infection rates during August rose and admissions to hospital by the end of August had started to rise.
“Has this any correlation with the Eat Out to Help Out, which economically was incredibly successful, but might actually have contributed to where we are today.”
Independent peer Baroness Wheatcroft called for greater clarity from the Government and claimed the public was confused as to why you could meet people at pubs or restaurants but not at home in locked-down areas.
She said: “For those who have been subjected to swathes of new regulations, it is the illogicality of the Government’s messaging, its policies and policy changes which generates confusion.
“For instance, in areas where households are not allowed to mix, they’re still able to go to the pub or the restaurant provided they leave by 10pm.
“I listened to the deputy chief medical officer Professor (Jonathan) Van-Tam and he made it very clear that the hospitality industry did help fuel the spread of the disease.”
Independent peer Baroness Uddin warned restaurants faced a “massive hit” due to the 10pm curfew.
She said: “The hospitality industry once again will take a massive hit just as many, including in the British curry industry, felt some hope of survival.”
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