Pubs and restaurants in England will be ordered to have a 10pm closing time from Thursday as part of new measures to halt the spread of coronavirus.
Hospitality venues will also be restricted by law to table service only.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will outline the steps in the House of Commons this morning before addressing the nation in a live broadcast at 8pm this evening.
Yesterday, the government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, warned there could be 50,000 new coronavirus cases a day by mid-October without intervention. The UK’s Covid-19 alert level moved to 4, meaning transmission is “high or rising exponentially”.
UKHospitality was expected to give a statement on the new rules this morning, but last night its CEO Kate Nicholls said that a 10pm curfew was “bad for business and bad for controlling the virus”.
She said: “Table service has been widely adopted in some parts of the sector since reopening, but it is not necessary across all businesses, such as coffee shops.”
Pubs bosses have vehemently argued that the sector has already gone to extraordinary lengths to create safe environments, and say that data shows incidents in food, pub and restaurant settings are not the primary cause of increased infection.
Oakman Inns chairman Peter Borg-Neal said there were less than 34 cases reported across the entire pub and restaurant sector last week, based on Public Health England figures.
But ministers are understood to hope that enforcing an earlier closing time, along with the rule of six, will act as a warning to the public that efforts to curb the virus need to be stepped up.