The 10 PM curfew imposed on the hospitality sector would have just a “marginal impact” on the spread of coronavirus according to the government’s own scientific advisers.
Documents published on Monday from the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has revealed that experts rejected the idea of a curfew exactly a week before one was implemented across England.
On 17 September the government’s Scientific Advisory Group SAGE recommended a package of interventions to curb the rise in coronavirus infections in the UK, including shutting restaurants, pubs and bars, advising people to work from home where possible and moving university and college teaching online. The report said the environmental risk in hospitality outlets was “likely to be higher than many other indoor settings due to close proximity of people, long duration of exposure, no wearing of face coverings by customers, loud talking that can generate more aerosols”, as well as the poor ventilation in some locations and the effect consumption of alcohol has on behaviour.
Seven days before the 10pm curfew came into force on September 24 SAGE wrote: “Curfews likely to have a marginal impact. Low confidence.”
The document was published on Monday just hours after prime minister Boris Johnson announced details of a new three-tier lockdown system in England.
The 10pm curfew has been widely criticised by the hospitality and licensed sector, by scientists, as well as politicians in the north of England, who have cast doubt on its impact on coronavirus rates.
The Sage revelation follows criticism last month that Johnson “never discussed” the curfew with science advisers, one of whom described the plan as “fairly trivial” which would have a “very small impact on the epidemic”. In September Professor Graham Medley, a leading member of Sage, said the group had “never discussed” the 10pm curfew, fuelling the belief that the government adopted the measure alone.
“I never discussed it or heard it discussed,” he said of the 10pm shutdown which was adopted instead of a tougher crackdown on household mingling.
In a separate Sage document, scientists said NHS Test and Trace was only having a “marginal impact” and would “likely decline further” unless the system was expanded and people were given support to self-isolate.
Sage recommended a two-week “circuit break” lockdown three weeks ago in a bid to curtail the spread of Covid-19, according to the newly-released minutes.
Assessing the impact such a measure would have on the transmission of the virus, the scientists wrote: “Likely to have similar levels of effectiveness as national lockdown in spring.
Prime minister Boris Johnson had promised the test and trace scheme would be “world beating”, but Sage experts wrote on 21 September: “The relatively low levels of engagement with the system, coupled with testing delays and likely poor rates of adherence with self-isolation suggests that this system is having a marginal impact on transmission at the moment.”