Express & Star comment: Pub curfew is questionable

Of all the new measures brought in last week to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the 10pm curfew on pubs, bars and restaurants was arguably the most questionable.

Old Compton Street in Soho, London, after pubs and restaurants were subject to a 10pm curfew to combat the rise in coronavirus cases
Old Compton Street in Soho, London, after pubs and restaurants were subject to a 10pm curfew to combat the rise in coronavirus cases

In theory, the move will stop people drinking for long hours in licensed establishments, presumably meaning a reduction in the time the virus has to spread.

But Ministers cannot have been happy with how it has played out in recent days.

Since the curfew came into force towns and cities all over the country have seen large crowds gathering in the streets immediately after the new closing time.

Long queues have formed for public transport and off licences, as many drinkers simply continued their night in each other’s homes after the pubs closed.

In Birmingham large crowds were repeatedly warned by police to disperse, while a venue in Telford was fined £10,000 for hosting an illegal party.

It raises a number of questions over Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden's claim that there is "definitely science" behind the measure.

Clearly, we are going to have to live with this horrible disease until a vaccine is found.

Until that time, the Government has a delicate balancing act on its hands.

The nation's health must always be the priority, but there is a real danger that in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19, too much intrusion on people's lives is being sanctioned.

The fact is that the pub trade is already on its knees, and these latest restrictions may be causing landlords and brewers irreparable harm without having much of an impact on controlling the virus.

Meanwhile there is now talk of pausing the return of students after outbreaks at a number of universities – a move which could have dire consequences for another struggling sector.

The sensible approach for the Government is to review all restrictions at regular intervals. If they are not working – or doing more harm than good – then ditch them.

While we await the development of a vaccine, it is imperative that an affective testing system is put in place.

Because despite Ministers' claims to the contrary, we haven't got one yet.

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