Bacteriologist says restaurant and pub closures NOT backed by evidence

Bacteriologist says restaurant and pub closures across Scotland and Wales are NOT backed by ‘sound evidence’

  • Hugh Pennington said he is frustrated by lack of info used to support shutdown
  • Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today unveiled new tiered approach
  • Wales begins a harsh ‘firebreak’ lockdown tonight, running until November 9
  • Hospitality groups signal their intention to take legal action against Government 

Pub and restaurant closures across Scotland and Wales are not backed by ‘sound evidence’, according to a top academic. 

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today unveiled her nation’s new tiered lockdown approach while Wales begins a 17-day ‘firebreak’ at 6pm this evening.

The rules mean the shutters are coming down on many sections of the high street in both countries, however Hugh Pennington, professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, said he is frustrated by the lack of information being used to support the shutdown.

It comes after hospitality groups signalled their intention to take legal action against the Government.

Pubs in Scotland and Wales (pictured) will have to close as a result of the countries’ new lockdown rules

Hospitality groups have signalled their intention to take legal action against the Government

Hugh Pennington, professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, said he is frustrated by the lack of information being used to support the shutdown

Scotland’s new 0-4  tier system, how it works:

Nicola Sturgeon laid out plans for a new 0-4 tier lockdown today. Here is how it would work. 

Level 0 

As close to normal as possible. Broadly in line with the situation in Scotland in August when the virus was suppressed but still around. 

At this level people would be able to meet indoors with eight people from three households and most businesses would be open safety measures in place.

Level 1 

Household meetings would reduce to six people from two households but there would still be a reasonable degree of normality overall.

Level 2 

Restrictions broadly similar to those currently in place currently outside Scotland’s central belt. It includes  limitations on hospitality and no gatherings inside people’s homes.

Level 3

Broadly similar to the tougher restrictions which currently apply across the central belt  – including Glasgow and Edinburgh, with much of hospitality being closed completely. But restaurants would be able to be open ‘at least partially’.

Both Levels 2 and 3 are intended to apply for relatively short periods of time to bring transmission under control.

Level 4

This would kick in when ‘transmission rates are, or are threatening to become, very high with corresponding pressure on the NHS and perhaps the risk of the NHS being overwhelmed’.

Closer to a full lockdown, with non-essential shops closed. But six people from up two households could still meet outdoors, there would be no limit on outdoor exercise for individuals, manufacturing and construction businesses would stay open with safety measures in place.

Ms Sturgeon added: ‘We do not envisage returning to a situation as severe as the first lockdown imposed back in late March.’ 

The Scottish Beer and Pub Association, The Scottish Licensed Trade Association, UK Hospitality (Scotland), the Scottish Hospitality Group and the Night Time Industries Association Scotland are all pursuing action.

They said there is ‘no sound evidence’ to support bar and restaurant closures, which were extended yesterday for another week in the Central Belt.

Prof Pennington said he understands the hospitality groups’ decision to pursue legal action.

He said: ‘I can see where they are coming from.

‘I can see why they want to see more data.

‘I think those of us who are not involved in the government machine would like to see that data.

‘I’ve been quite frustrated by the low level of information about outbreaks and the evidence that is being used.

‘What the hospitality industry want to see is the evidence that is driving the policy.

‘There is evidence from the international scene, we know there have been outbreaks in pubs and of course there was the Aberdeen outbreak.

‘But what I haven’t seen and what the hospitality industry will be very keen to see is if there has been a detailed study of an outbreak.

‘One can do quite sophisticated analysis quite quickly and I haven’t seen that data.

‘And if there is evidence, then the hospitality industry can accept, well that’s why you are coming down so heavily on us.’

Nick McKerrell, an expert in licensing law at Glasgow Caledonian University, said a judicial review would be a ‘costly and complicated’ process.

Mr McKerrell said: ‘We are talking £100-£200k which is why pub owners can do it.

‘It is about the decision itself and how the Government has arrived at that decision.

‘They will argue that the Scottish Government does not have the evidence to back it up.’

Businesses in Scotland which face lockdown restrictions will be able to apply for grants on top of those provided by the UK Government’s job support scheme.

Grants for £2,000 or £3,000 every four weeks would be available for firms forced to close due to lockdown measures.

Those which can remain open but cannot trade as normal due to restrictions can apply for funding of £1,400 or £2,100 every four weeks, broadly in line with the scheme in England.

But Ms Sturgeon warned the money will run out and called for a ‘resolution’ from the UK Government.

Nicola Sturgeon (pictured today)gave details of the five-tier scheme despite a furious backlash from restaurants and retailers over the prospect of heightened restrictions staying in place indefinitely

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: ‘We are using the powers we have to help businesses, offering support which now exceeds £2.3 billion, including 100 per cent rates relief for pubs and restaurants for the year and we will extend financial support available to businesses who must stay closed or continue to restrict their trading to cover the additional week of restrictions.

‘We are confident the temporary restrictions are essential and proportionate to the risk posed by coronavirus if we are to prevent a return to the dangerous level of infections experienced earlier this year.’

Outlining the new Level 0 – 4 system live on television today, Miss Sturgeon held out an olive branch to hospitality businesses who blasted the harsh new restrictions, which would place some level of barre on trading at all levels.

She said while she would listen to arguments about trying to keep some pubs and restaurants open at higher tiers but she would not promise to make changes.

She warned ‘it is possible that the whole country could be placed in the same level’ and refused to rule out some parts of the country immediately being placed in Level 4. 

The First Minister gave details of the scheme – which is subject to being ratified by the Scottish parliament next week – despite a furious backlash from restaurants and retailers over the prospect of heightened restrictions staying in place indefinitely. 

Non-essential or essential? What we know about what goods are banned in Wales’ lockdown firebreak 

First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced that non-essential items should not be sold during the country’s firebreak lockdown.

So far the Welsh government has not published a public list of what these goods include.

The supermarkets have also not responded on whether they have been given specific instructions on what they cannot sell.

But information gathered throughout today suggests these items cannot be sold during the 17 days of restrictions:

  • Hairdryers
  • Stationary 
  • Kettles 
  • Phone chargers
  • Duvets
  • Sheets 
  • Electrical products  

Meanwhile, supermarket staff in Wales today covered up kettles and phone chargers on shelves as ‘power mad’ First Minister Mark Drakeford banned the sale of ‘non-essential’ items during the country’s coronavirus firebreak lockdown.  

Tesco and Lidl workers became Wales’ first ‘trolley police’ as they were seen hiding shelves of ‘non-essential’ products behind plastic sheets to stop customers buying them ahead of the start of the restrictions. 

Four members of staff at a Tesco store in Pontypool could be seen inspecting the cover-up for a 20-minute trial run ahead of the latest restrictions coming into force this evening.

Mr Drakeford described stopping supermarkets from selling non-essential products during the firebreak lockdown as ‘a straightforward matter of fairness’.

Wales’ Labour leader could not hide his frustration today as he was repeatedly questioned on the restrictions, which come into force from 6pm for 17 days. He said they were ‘fair’ and crucial to stop the spread of the virus.

He told a press conference in Cardiff that any suggestion that the ban, which was announced on Thursday, was based on his own politics was ‘nonsensical’.

He said: ‘We are requiring many hundreds of small businesses to close on the high street right across Wales.

‘We cannot do that and then allow supermarkets to sell goods that those people are unable to sell.

‘And we are looking to minimise the amount of time that people spend out of their homes during this two-week period.

‘This is not the time to be browsing around supermarkets looking for non-essential goods.’

Tesco in Pontypool, Wales, after the First Minister Mark Drakeford said no non-essential items could be sold in store

First Minister Mark Drakeford (pictured today) said it will be ‘made clear’ to supermarkets that only certain parts of their business will be allowed to open in order to sell essentials

A group of young people pose in Cardiff last night as they make the most of a night out before the Welsh lockdown

He said trying to find exceptions to the rules was ‘just the wrong’ approach and called on people in Wales to not use the firebreak to do things that they do not have to.

‘It is a straightforward matter of fairness – we are in this together here in Wales,’ he added.

Police checkpoints are also being set up on a key section of the Wales-England border, officers in Gloucestershire confirmed. 

Gloucestershire Constabulary will stop people travelling into Wales and encourage them to turn around if officers ‘are not satisfied with their explanation’.

If people do not turn around, the police said it will tell forces in Wales so that they can issue a fine. 

Supermarket customers in Wales today claimed the sale of duvets, bedding and electricals had been stopped by Tesco staff who covered the shelves in plastic. 

A spokesperson for Tesco confirmed to MailOnline: ‘Our colleagues across Wales will be working incredibly hard today so we can comply with the Welsh Government’s ban on selling ‘non-essential’ goods to our customers from 6pm this evening.’

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