With lockdown restrictions in England due to be reviewed in three weeks, night time economy adviser for Greater Manchester Sacha Lord has written to the health secretary calling for a taskforce to advise the government on the country's return to tiered regulations.
In the letter to Matt Hancock, Lord's legal team express concerns over the evidence on which to place a 10pm curfew on the hospitality industry was based, as well as the requirement that alcohol can only be served in pubs, bars and restaurants with a ‘substantial' meal. There are also concerns about the threshold or criteria for the tiered restrictions, decisions the letter said were taken "without sufficient, or indeed any, scientific basis".
In the latest letter, the evidence for creating a tiered system of regulations – a study in the US of 314 people by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July – is described as "weak and limited". The study is understood to have made no distinction between indoor and outdoor spaces for hospitality venues, service delivery methods, or Covid safety measures.
It says it is "very difficult to draw useful conclusions from a study which lacks detail and which is based on such a small numbers of participants", and that it is "unhelpful for the purposes of drawing any conclusions from the results of the study and seeking to then apply those conclusions to circumstances at a different stage of the pandemic and in an entirely different country".
It is described as "irrational" to have a policy of tiered restrictions without some criteria or published guidance as to the thresholds for each tier, and "unfair and unjustified" for hospitality venues to be required to provide food, and that it should not be a requirement following the country's exit from lockdown next month.
The letter continues: "The requirement to serve a meal will mean that many businesses in Greater Manchester will be required to close indefinitely, with no guarantee of ever being able to re-open. Many bars and pubs do not have kitchen facilities or kitchen staff. Requiring those businesses to call upon banks for further funds to implement those facilities and to employ additional staff in the current economic climate is asking the impossible. They have no alternative but to close.
It added: "Our client would like to work with the secretary of state to improve the tiered regulations, so that the negative impact on society and the economy can be minimised whilst ensuring the continued suppression of Covid-19. There is no more important period of time in the hospitality and leisure industry than December, and our client is anxious to play his part to ensure that as many businesses as possible can survive into 2021."