Last orders are about to be called much earlier from Thursday – when a new 10pm curfew is to be slapped on all pubs, bars, restaurant and hospitality businesses in England to tackle the spread of coronavirus.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will address the nation in a public TV address at 8pm tonight (Tuesday 22nd September) to confirm that all hospitality businesses will be required to close by 10pm, starting from Thursday, September 24th, and will be restricted to table service only.
Cabinet will meet on Tuesday morning ahead of the Prime Minister setting out the changes in a statement to Parliament.
A No 10 spokesperson said: “No one underestimates the challenges the new measures will pose to many individuals and businesses. We know this won’t be easy, but we must take further action to control the resurgence in cases of the virus and protect the NHS.”
There are now huge concerns across the hospitality sector about the impact of earlier closing times, and also how it will be enforced.
It comes just over a month after the Government’s hugely successful Eat Out to Help Out scheme ran throughout August, which encouraged the public to support their local restaurant and pubs with a state-backed discount to tempt us all out in our millions.
Yesterday the Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance gave a public briefing on the latest coronavirus data showing that cases are doubling around every seven days. If the trajectory is allowed to continue, they said it could lead to 50,000 cases a day by the middle of October.
The COVID-19 alert level has moved from level 3 to level 4 – which indicates that the number of cases is rising rapidly.
What are the rules?
The new 10pm hospitality curfew across England will work alongside the ongoing local lockdown measures that are already in force across huge swathes of Greater Manchester and in parts of Lancashire, Cheshire and Merseyside.
Those local lockdowns differ slightly from area to area – but all ban households from mixing with other households either indoors or outdoors at private homes or inside bars and and restaurants.
In Bolton, which has the current highest rate of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country, there are extra restrictions including all restaurants and bars being forced to only provide takeaway options and a 10pm curfew has been in place for weeks – but the rates have continued to rise.
The rule of six, which was introduced last week by Boris Johnson, continues to be applied across the region and indeed across the UK.
There is talk of higher fines to be imposed to deter people flouting the new law and socialising in groups of more than six people.