FM issues warning as bars fear ‘catastrophic curfew’
Concern is growing of a second lockdown
Hospitality businesses are fearful that many will never reopen if a curfew is imposed across Scotland to control an upsurge in Covid-19 cases.
The Westminster government is considering England-wide measures which could see hospitality businesses forced to shut and there are growing concerns that this will be introduced north of the border to try slowing a second surge of coronavirus cases.
Downing Street is looking at a short period of shutdown – or “circuit break” of a few weeks – across the country which could be announced in the next week.
Controls come into force in northeast England today affecting Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland, Northumberland, South Tyneside, North Tyneside and the County Durham council area.
At lunchtime the government announced tighter restrictions in Lancashire, Merseyside, parts of the Midlands and West Yorkshire.
The new rules ban separate households from meeting each other at home or in private gardens. Pubs and restaurants must also shut early in parts of Lancashire and Merseyside. The measures will come into force from Tuesday.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has called for Downing Street to organise a Cobra meeting to discuss what she said is the most critical point in tackling coronavirus since March.
She warned: “I’m giving people advance notice that we are likely to see some very difficult decisions over the coming days”
In parliament yesterday she that the Scottish Government was “carefully considering” whether new lockdown rules were required “for all or parts of the country”.
Seven councils in the Greater Glasgow area currently have bans on social gatherings indoors but the SNP leader suggested similar rules could be rolled out elsewhere.
The latest moves come as virus is now understood to be doubling every seven to eight days. In Scotland 290 people tested positive for Covid yesterday – the highest figure since May 1 – with the majority in the west of Scotland.
Ms Sturgeon refused to rule out introducing a form of curfew which could see pubs and restaurants forced to close early.
Stephen Montgomery, spokesman for The Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG), said the sector would struggle to survive a second lockdown and warned that closing pubs would only encourage more people to host house parties.
“A national curfew in Scotland would be catastrophic for the hospitality industry,” he said.
“The current ‘rule of six’ restriction has meant that we are on life support. Further restrictions will flick the switch for many businesses, that once closed will not be able to open their doors again. This will principally hit late night venue owners who have invested significantly to adapt their premises to bar service.”
He said businesses had invested heavily in operational changes to ensure they were safe for customers.
“We are asking that the Scottish Government does not take this blanket approach. Responsible bar, restaurant and late night venue owners across Scotland have enhanced hygiene measures and controlled physical distancing in place.
“They are also essential to the effective use of the track and trace system. If people have nowhere to go you are massively increasing the risk of more house parties and irresponsible gatherings, where track and trace is almost impossible.
“The vast majority of bars and restaurants are operating safely. We have been adhering religiously to every regulation that has been introduced by the Scottish Government and we will continue to do so.
“Compliance and maintaining a unified sector are critical and something that the SHG fully supports, but tighter restrictions may encourage rogue traders which must be avoided at all costs.”
In other measures, travellers arriving into England and Scotland from Singapore and Thailand will not need to quarantine from Saturday morning. However, Slovenia has been added to the list requiring quarantine.