A report commissioned by UKHospitality from analysts CGA argues that businesses in the sector were not significant areas of Covid transmission in 2020 and should be able to reopen this spring.
The study pointed out that there was not a rapid rise in cases in mid to late-August, as would be expected if the 4 July reopening or Eat Out to Help Out scheme were responsible, and said evidence from Public Health directors and Public Health England weekly surveillance reports both showed that hospitality was linked to a low number of cases and was not a leading environment of transmission.
Data for the weeks 9 July to 19 September, by far the busiest period for hospitality since the pandemic began, showed an average of just 5.2% of infections could be linked to ‘food outlet/restaurant' settings.
The report discredited a University of Warwick study claim last year that Eat Out to Help Out "substantially contributed to accelerating the second wave of the pandemic", a claim contradicted by the Treasury, and UKHospitality called for the report to not be used as a reason to delay the reopening of hospitality businesses this year.
It said hospitality is well-placed to maintain and enforce Covid-19 mitigation measures, both because of pre-existing health, safety and hygiene legislation, and because of the legal incentive for licensed venues to protect their personal and premises licences. Considering the safe environment the sector is able to provide, it said hospitality should be seen as an equally high priority for reopening as non-essential retail, and next in line after priority sectors like schools, essential retail and outdoor sports to reopen.
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: "The result of the lockdowns and the restrictions placed on the sector last year was crippling. Business was devastated to an extent hitherto unimaginable. Many businesses are barely surviving and cannot afford another year with restrictions on the scale of 2020.
"Reopening has to be done correctly at the first time of asking. A barrier to that could be the incorrect assumption that our businesses pose a risk to public health. We know that hospitality businesses are safe and all the data has shown we are not a significant area of transmission. This report is a vindication of everything we have been saying and a forceful argument for allowing us to reopen and welcome back our customers."
She added: "Hospitality can lead the economic recovery of the country. We can provide jobs to people who have lost them and host millions who are desperate for some enjoyment after a torrid year. This report shows we can do it safely, too. The government should take note and ensure it allows hospitality to reopen as soon as it is safe to do so."