Ministers were accused of using risky information after relying on statistics from less than 100 pubs to justify the possible closure of several thousand venues across the north of England.
This comes at a time when there are plans to impose even tougher restrictions on millions of people living in the north from next week, as they face a backlash from local leaders and MPs at No. 10.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty told MPs yesterday that a ‘significant proportion’ of coronavirus infections were occurring in the hospitality sector.
He showed them a table that suggested that 32 percent of infections could occur in pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants.
Chris Whitty claims that a ‘significant proportion’ of exposure to the coronavirus in the hospitality sector has caught fire. A Conservative MP described the government’s data as ‘incredibly thin’
But last night it was revealed that public health England data is based on a very small sample size.
It is derived from contact tracing data referring to only 98 pubs and 67 cafes and restaurants.
A spokesman for a PHE said each reported case was sent to two separate covid-positive patients who had been at the same venue in the past week.
Last night the British Beer and Pub Association warned the government that the information was not good enough to shut down pubs.
Official data claimed that 32% of infections could occur in pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants, but it emerged that data was taken from less than 170 business samples.
Doc spread beans
The controversial information cited by Professor Whitty is based on the practice of ‘seeking increased communication’, the Department of Health said.
It asks people who they met – and where they met them. However it is based on a very small sample.
If two infected people both tell the tracker that they went somewhere last week, this is seen as an indication, but not as evidence, that the virus was transmitted between them.
But they did not have to stay there at the same time.
The data showed that there were 98 shows where two or more people told the contact tracer that they would get the same.
In another 67 cases, people in the same cafe or restaurant were mentioned.
One expert suggested that 1,000,000 venues across the North would be forced to close. Downing Street, however, denied that any decision had yet been made on the lockdown.
A Tory MP who attended the briefing said: ‘It is clear that the information is incredibly thin for further action on hospitality.
‘It’s so weak that they can’t even express it.’
Professor Whitty also cited question-and-answer information in the United States, saying that the 10-night national night curfew for pubs, bars and restaurants introduced last month was nothing more than a fact.
Last night, northern politicians condemned the prime minister for his “reckless” plan to close all pubs and restaurants in the worst-hit areas.
Andy Burnham, Labor mayor of Greater Manchester, told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: ‘I will no longer be in a situation where they will push things north of England that will cause real loss of life.
And Emma McCarkarkin of the British Beer and Pub Association says: ‘In England we have yet to see strong evidence that blanket systems to lock pubs that strictly comply with government guidelines will significantly stop the spread of the virus.’
However, Mansfield’s Tory MP Ben Bradley, who took part in the call, said:
Liverpool City Mayor Steve Rotheram told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “The North should not be the North Petri dish for testing by the central government.”
Community Secretary Robert Generic confirmed yesterday that the move is slowing down.
“Several cities in the Midlands, such as the Northwest and the North East and especially Nottingham, are growing rapidly and this is a serious situation,” he said.
‘We are currently considering what steps we should take in consultation with our scientific and medical consultants and a decision will be made soon.’
Hospitality officials say government data is not enough to close the proposed pub in the northern part – fearing 7,000 venues could close
Altas Group, a real estate consultant, estimated that in the North, 200 pubs could close – one in five of all English pubs.
A government spokesman acknowledged last night that the “preliminary analysis” had not been completed.
“We are seeing an increase in cases of coronavirus across the country, especially in the northeast and northwest,” he said.
‘We are constantly monitoring the data and considering a variety of options to control the virus, protect communities and save lives.’
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