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UK: Covid Update — Pubs and restaurants in England to have 10pm closing times

       People drinking in a bar
           copyright PA MEDIA

All pubs, bars, restaurants and other hospitality venues in England must have a 22:00 closing time from Thursday, to help curb the spread of coronavirus.

The sector will also be restricted by law to table service only.

The measures will be set out by the prime minister in the Commons before he addresses the nation in a live broadcast at 20:00 BST on Tuesday.

It comes as the UK’s Covid-19 alert level moved to 4 , meaning transmission is “high or rising exponentially”.

Boris Johnson is also expected to stress the need for people to follow social distancing guidelines, wear face coverings and wash their hands regularly.

And, according to newspaper reports, he will urge people to work from home where it does not negatively impact businesses.

The government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has warned there could be 50,000 new coronavirus cases a day by mid-October without further action – which, he said, could lead to more than 200 deaths per day by mid-November.

On Monday, a further 4,368 daily cases and 11 deaths were reported in the UK.

Further restrictions will also be announced in Scotland on Tuesday, while restrictions on households mixing indoors will be extended to all of Northern Ireland .

Also from 18:00 on Tuesday, four more counties in south Wales will face new measures , including a 23:00 curfew for pubs and bars.

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What difference will it make?

Analysis box by Nick Triggle, health correspondent

People are understandably asking what difference closing at 22:00 makes. Coupled with the table service law, it will be little more than a marginal gain.

But what ministers hope is that the move, along with the rule of six, will act as a warning to the public that efforts to curb the virus need to be redoubled.

What remains to be seen is whether any other restrictions will accompany this move.

It seems inevitable that the virus will continue to spread – that’s what respiratory viruses do during winter, especially one for which there is limited immunity and no vaccine.

But how quickly and widely – no one knows.

The risk of trying to suppress the virus is the government will soon find itself having to make another decision about further steps.

How far are ministers prepared to go? Every restriction that is taken has a negative consequence to society.

But the nature of the virus means lives will undoubtedly be lost the more it spreads. Balancing those two harms will define the next six months.

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The cabinet will meet on Tuesday morning and Boris Johnson will also chair a Cobra emergency meeting – which will be attended by the first ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Speaking about the new closing times, a No 10 spokesperson said: “We know this won’t be easy, but we must take further action to control the resurgence in cases of the virus and protect the NHS.”

Tighter restrictions on pub and restaurant opening times are already in place in parts of north-east and north-west England, and Wales.

Daily confirmed cases in the UK
UK daily hospital admissions
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Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey described the new rules as “a step backwards”, as he urged the government to fix the test and trace system and help the hospitality sector.

“After people have already been through so much hardship, we cannot allow thousands of jobs to disappear overnight,” he said.

There were also calls for support from within the hospitality sector.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, said the new rules should be “applied with flexibility”, and that a 22:00 closing time was “bad for business and bad for controlling the virus”.

She added: “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.”

Meanwhile, Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night-Time Industries Association, warned the move would result in a “surge of unregulated events and house parties”.
— more on BBC news