Monday 28 September 2020

Kick Out to Help Out has been a fiasco

Last Wednesday, I wrote about the new 10pm 'kick out to help out' rule and suggested that it was about signalling more than anything else.
There is no evidence that closing pubs early will help – only five per cent of new cases arise in hospitality venues and the policy may simply encourage more house parties – but it might remind the public that the virus is still out there.

As symbolic measures go, it is an expensive one. The full cost to pubs and restaurants will only be known when the bankruptcy and unemployment figures are published, but one publican claims that the new closing time could halve takings. In restaurants, it will mean seating everybody by 8.30pm. After a three-and-a-half-month lockdown, the hospitality industry is so fragile that many of its businesses only need the slightest push to go over the brink.

An article in the Sunday Times confirms my hunch, but it seems the government does not see it as expensive.

These exchanges convinced Johnson that Whitty and Vallance represented pragmatic opinion in the centre of the range of experts. In a separate meeting on Sunday night with his top team, he approved a plan to continue with the rule of six, but introduce a 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants. The practical effects of this were not modelled by Sage, but it was seen as “a good symbolic thing because it’s a low-cost way of sending a clear message that things are different”.

Far be it from me to suggest that Sage is out of touch with reality, but according to Kate Nicholls of UK Hospitality, takings are down by 33% to 40% in the sector since early closing times were introduced.

There is now wide acceptance that the policy has been costly and counter-productive. People are piling out of venues at exactly the same time and partying in the streets and in people's homes. All this was predicted by those of us who are unburdened by a PhD in epidemiology.

A rethink is urgently needed.
Incidentally, it was today revealed that the bars in parliament are not affected by the rule.

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