Health secretary refuses to rule out pub closures

By Emily Hawkins contact

- Last updated on GMT

Answers soon: Health Secretary Matt Hancock said today pub operators would have more information on further restrictions in the "very, very near future"
Answers soon: Health Secretary Matt Hancock said today pub operators would have more information on further restrictions in the "very, very near future"

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Health secretary Matt Hancock said the sector would be given answers in the "very near future" in response to a question about whether pub operators should prepare for closures.

Hancock was asked if there would be any severe restrictions on the hospitality sector on ITV’s This Morning​ programme earlier today (Monday 21 September).

There have been reports that a national curfew is being considered, with many pubs in parts of England and Wales already ordered to close at 10pm or 11pm in local measures.

Hancock was asked if pubs would be open this weekend.

“We will be absolutely clear about the changes we need to make in the very, very near future,” Hancock said.

Coy response

The minister added: “It’s not a no and it’s not a yes. We have been working on this all weekend, we haven’t taken the final decisions about what we need to do in response to the surge that we have seen in the last few weeks.”

When asked again by Phillip Schofield when there would be clarity about going to the pub, Hancock said answers would be given in “the very near future”.

The minister told MPs today the nation was "at a tipping point" and action was needed to curb rising infection rates.

"We know from experience local action can work when local communities come together to follow the rules, tackle the virus and keep themselves safe," he said.

Statement tomorrow

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will make a statement on the pandemic tomorrow in the House of Commons.

It is expected any restrictions on the trade will be announced then.

Operators have been telling The Morning Advertiser​ of the impact of localised measures on their businesses​, with many areas also instating bans on different households mixing.

Fiona Hornsby operates two pubs in Liverpool and said she was bracing herself for a significant drop in turnover with football fans deterred from going out to watch games with their friends.

No justification for closure

She added: "We will inevitably lose staff if this goes on for longer than two weeks."

Hornsby said she felt the trade had been unfairly highlighted as a setting for the virus spreading​. "There is no justification for pubs to closed again," she said.

What's more, Lindsey Armstrong, who operates the Champs Sports Bar and Grill in Washington, Tyne and Wear, shared her fears of another shutdown.

She said: "At the end of the day we need this pandemic to be over but it has had a huge, huge detrimental effect on our trade and I don't know where we are going to go from here. If we end up in another lockdown position I just don't even think we will survive the lockdown again. It was hard enough to come back the last time."

"Everybody who runs a pub is in exactly same position. It's just awful, there's no end in sight."

Pubs in the Greater Manchester town of Bolton were ordered to close and only operate as takeaway services​ after a rise in cases there.

Related topics: Legislation

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