Curfew on pubs as Government seeks to avoid second lockdown

Boris Johnson addressing the nation in March to announce the first national lockdown

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce this afternoon that pubs and restaurants will have to close by 10pm as the Government tries desperately to avoid a second national lockdown that leading East Midlands business figures say would be “catastrophic”.

The news comes a day after the Government was told that if no action was taken then the UK could see 50,000 coronavirus cases a day by mid-October.

Johnson is expected to say that from Thursday pubs and restaurants will operate under a 10pm curfew, while police will be given the go-ahead to arrest and fine anyone not observing social distancing guidelines.

Scott Knowles, chief executive at East Midlands Chamber, said the Government had some “tough choices” to make.

He added: “The simple reality is that another national lockdown would be catastrophic to the economic recovery of the country. The scientists have suggested four actions for combatting risk, but a lockdown should not be added to this list.

“The latest ONS employment statistics for May to July demonstrated the unemployment rate is on the rise – with the East Midlands among the worst affected regions – and this is only set to grow once the wind-down and eventual end of the Job Retention Scheme are taken into account in later months.

“Indeed, the Chamber’s latest Quarterly Economic Survey for Q3 2020 showed that 27% of businesses decreased the size of their workforce over the three months to September.

“We saw with the Leicester lockdown that a one-size-fits-all approach to imposing restrictions was a blunt instrument that hit both the cashflow and confidence of businesses and communities. Six months into this pandemic, it should be well within our capability as a nation to have access to timely, localised data that can instead be used to inform decisions about how to take a more targeted, ultra-local approach to tackling outbreaks.

“This, alongside a properly-functioning test and trace system, should be our route to getting through the winter. Any decision that involves shutting down certain parts of the economy must be viewed as an absolute last resort and be accompanied by additional funding to be made available by Westminster for keeping businesses afloat and people in jobs.”