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Wetherspoon chairman dimisses Government justification for pub restrictions

Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has today commented on the Government’s justification for closing pubs and other hospitality businesses in its Transmission Risk in the Hospitality Sector paper.

Martin said, “The Government’s paper is extraordinarily weak in all areas. It refers to theoretical problems, including 'crowded places', 'loud activities', and the 'disinhibitory effects of alcohol'.

“Yet data from the Test and Trace system indicates that these theoretical problems have not been realised in practice. Transmissions of the virus have been very low in hospitality businesses.'

Martin continued, “The report does not mention the measures put in place in the run up to reopening in July to make venues 'Covid Secure'. These include screens between tables and around tills, capacity limits, sanitizer stations and the prohibition of music and entertainment. The report has ignored the impact of these measures.

“It is also wrong to assume that hospitality venues are poorly ventilated. Long-standing building regulations stipulate that there must be a high level of ventilation in pubs and restaurants- 10L / per second rate of exchange .

“Ventilation also improves when there are fewer people in a building, which has been the case since capacities have been reduced since reopening in July.'

Martin noted, “Wetherspoon’s experience, having gathered millions of customer details, using the Test and Trace system, is that there have been no reported cases of staff to customer transmission, or vice versa - or of any customer to customer transmission. Since reopening in July, Wetherspoon has had approximately 54 million customer visits.

“Instead, the Government is relying on evidence based on specific and limited examples from countries such as Japan, China and South Korea - with no supporting detail as to whether similar social distancing measures were in place. The comparisons are therefore meaningless and misleading.

“The proposition in the report that you can only get the 'R rate' below 1 by imposing restrictions on hospitality businesses is patently false. Cornwall had its busiest ever summer this year , with pubs open from 4 July and there was no increase in the R rate.

Martin concluded, “Overall, this report reflects badly on the Government. It is grasping at straws to concoct evidence from weak theories, or dubious evidence from abroad, rather than relying on contemporary evidence, using accessible and relevant UK information.

“The ruinous and arbitrary restrictions and closures, imposed on the industry, appear to be built on the flimsiest of grounds.”