Britain’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has said that England’s controversial 10pm hospitality curfew was a “policy decision” rather than one based on solid data.
Sir Patrick told the Commons Health and Science Committee yesterday that there was “no real hard evidence” to support the theory that hospitality environments spread the disease.
He said the curfew – which has been roundly criticised by industry chiefs and blamed for heaping more financial pressure on operators – was aimed at limiting the amount of time people spent indoors together as this is when the virus spreads most easily.
But he conceded that curfews were “not something you can model with any degree of accuracy”.
The 10pm rule was introduced in September and revised to 11pm at the start of December for operators in Tier 2 areas.
Sir Patrick told the committee that the curfew was all about reducing the potential of interactions as keeping people together longer in an indoor environment, where alcohol is also consumed, is likely to increase risk.
“It’s not something you can model with any degree of accuracy and say a particular time will give you a particular result.”
Hospitality chiefs vehemently argue that the amount of Covid cases traced too pubs and restaurants is extremely small, citing the measures that they have enforced to keep their venues Covid-secure.
But Sir Patrick said that if you look at the effect of the tiers, it was only when the hospitality sector was shut that cases reduced.
“If you look at the data around hospitality what you have is a series of environmental factors. The fact people can’t wear masks, you’re meeting with lots of people who you wouldn’t normally mix with, you’re in an indoor environment, in some cases ventilation may not be adequate and so on.
“The second area is you look at case control studies and they’re not very strong but they do suggest there is an increased risk in those settings, [and it’s] much stronger when you look at occupational risk, you can clearly see there’s a risk to those who work in hospitality, again suggesting there’s a risk there in that particular sector.
“And then if you look at outbreak data from across the world and you see events from specific hospitality environments and you see super-spreading events.
“So there’s a range of data but it’s just not possible to model that with any degree of accuracy and say what differences [there are between hospitality and other sectors].”