Publication of the Cabinet Office's policy paper on coronavirus transmission risk in the hospitality sector proves pubs are being "unfairly singled out", according to the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra).
Camra national chairman Nik Antona said that the evidence "appears extremely weak" and based on studies of different countries and bar cultures at the start of the Covid outbreak, "which are vastly different to life here in the UK" and "doesn't consider the mitigating measures that have been introduced by pubs in the last few months".
He said: "Furthermore, the government has yet to provide evidence that the requirement to serve a ‘substantial meal' will reduce transmission or any concrete evidence that the responsible consumption of alcohol increases risk.
"The evidence clearly states that risk comes from a wide range of factors which apply equally to other sectors such as gyms, nightclubs, churches and business meetings. Coupled with the fact the R-rate has increased in some areas where hospitality has been restricted, it is hard not to conclude that pubs are being unfairly singled out for extra restrictions compared to other businesses."
The four-point paper, published on Friday, said hospitality venues are a "significant risk" for transmission due to the increased risk of close, prolonged, indoors, face-to-face contact, in poorly ventilated, loud and/or crowded spaces, combined with the effects of alcohol on social distancing.
It also pointed to the largest ‘superspreader' events in Japan, China, South Korea and Indonesia having originated from pubs, clubs, restaurants, gyms and wedding venues, as well as studies in the US and China suggesting "significant associations between hospitality and infection".
The paper said: "The general picture in the UK (and overseas) is that it has only been possible to get R consistently below 1 in places where there have been substantial restrictions on hospitality."
Antona added: "We are now urging the government to review the restrictions across tiers to allow wet-led pubs to reopen in Tier 2 and ensure that all affected pubs are provided with a substantial financial support package to get through the crisis."