England to require earlier closing time for pubs, eateries after coronavirus spike

People sit at tables outside restaurants in London's Soho, on Sept 20, 2020.
People sit at tables outside restaurants in London's Soho, on Sept 20, 2020.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (REUTERS) - All pubs, bars, restaurants and other hospitality venues across the whole of England must start closing at 10pm local time from Thursday (Sept 24) as Prime Minister Boris Johnson tackles a second wave of Covid-19 infections.

According to The Telegraph, Johnson will encourage Britons to go back to working from home if they can to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Johnson also warned MPs that by “taking action now we may not have to take drastic action later on”, The Telegraph’s chief political correspondent said in a tweet, citing sources.

Johnson, who will address both parliament and the nation on Tuesday at 1900 GMT (3am Wednesday Singapore time), will also say the hospitality sector will be restricted by law to table service only, according to excerpts of his remarks provided by his Downing Street office on Monday.

"No one underestimates the challenges the new measures will pose to many individuals and businesses. 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," he will say.

Shares in Britain's listed pubs and restaurant groups fell sharply on Monday in anticipation of the move. While there is no consistent policy for the country, the move will advance the closing time by at least an hour for most areas.

Britain will face an exponentially growing death rate from Covid-19 within weeks unless urgent action is taken to halt a rapidly spreading second wave of the outbreak, the country's senior medics warned on Monday.

The Covid-19 alert level has also moved from Level 3 to Level 4 after the data showed the number of cases was rising rapidly. Level 4 indicates that the virus is in general circulation and transmission is high or rising exponentially.

The new rules represent another backwards step in Britain's recovery from a pandemic that has inflicted more deaths and more economic damage on the country than on European peers and has prompted widespread criticism of Johnson's leadership.

On Monday, Northern Ireland said it would extend existing restrictions in some localities on households mixing indoors across the whole of the province from Tuesday, while Wales slapped curbs on four more areas. Scotland said additional restrictions were almost certain to be imposed.

On Monday, Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical officer, and Patrick Vallance, its chief scientific adviser, cautioned that if left unrestricted the epidemic would reach 50,000 new cases per day by mid-October in the United Kingdom.  

“If this continued along the path...the number of deaths directly from Covid ... will continue to rise, potentially on an exponential curve, that means doubling and doubling and doubling again and you can quickly move from really quite small numbers to really very large numbers,” Whitty said.  

“If we don’t do enough the virus will take off and at the moment that is the path that we are clearly on and if we do not change course then we’re going to find ourselves in a very difficult problem.”

The virus is spreading across all areas of the country and less than 8 per cent of the population have antibodies to the virus, though in London around 17 per cent of the population may have antibodies, Vallance said.

Speed and action are urgently needed, Vallance and Whitty said, adding that as winter was approaching the Covid problem would haunt Britain for another six months at least.  

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said new restrictions would be different to last time. The government wants to crack down on socialising but schools and many workplaces will stay open.