Plan to Shut UK Pubs Based on Flawed Claims and Faulty Reasoning: Think Tank

November 30, 2020 Updated: November 30, 2020

Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics from the International Energy Agency (IEA), published an article on Monday slamming the UK government for targeting hospitality businesses “based on the flimsiest of evidence.”

The government published a policy paper on Friday, laying out evidence it said supports the decision to keep pubs shut and impose a curfew on restaurants for 99 percent of the English population in the new three-tiered CCP virus restrictions system.

Parliament is due to vote on the new system on Tuesday. If passed, the restrictions will come into effect on Wednesday.

In an article published in the CAPX, Snowdon said that the paper “ignores all the counter-measures introduced to make hospitality venues low-risk, and relies on a handful of studies cobbled together by SAGE [The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies] which have no relevance to the British pub trade as it currently operates.”

The policy paper stated that contacts that are close, prolonged, indoors, face-to-face, in poorly ventilated and/or crowded spaces, or involve “loud” activities are of high risks, and these conditions are all prevalent in the hospitality sector.

Snowdon agreed with the first part of the statement, but argued that these risks are no longer prevalent in the hospitality sector since July after venues made themselves “COVID secure” as the government had required.

“Have any members of SAGE been to a pub since July? ” Snowdon questioned.

“Tables are spaced out, live music is a distant memory, background music and football commentary is forbidden, windows and doors are left open, masks have to be worn when not seated and it is table service only. Don’t they pay attention to their own regulations?”

The paper said that after analysing different restriction measures across the four nations, SAGE had found that only areas subject to lockdowns Tier 3 and above—where pubs were closed—have been able to get the reproduction number consistently below 1.

It also cited studies in the United States and China that “found significant associations between hospitality and infection.”

In an IEA paper that Snowdon updated on Sunday, he cited data from the UK that suggests case numbers did not correlate with the opening and closing of the hospitality sector.

Snowdon also disputed the governments’ citing of super-spreading events in several Asian countries, saying conditions under which those cases happened do not resemble those in pubs and restaurants in the UK today.

“By the time the furlough scheme ends in March, the venues will have long since collapsed and the workers will not have jobs to go back to,” he wrote.

Snowdon posted a series of tweets on Monday, breaking down points in his article. Among those who shared the tweets was Steve Baker MP, the deputy chair of the COVID Recovery Group (CRG).

The group had written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Nov. 21, saying its 70 members could not vote for any further lockdown unless the government can prove its effectiveness.

According to The Telegraph, pubs and restaurants affected by the new curbs will be given extra cash support, a gesture welcomed by Mark Harper, chairman of the CRG.

Harper and other Conservative MPs have said that they need to see a full cost-benefit analysis before considering to support Johnson’s plan.

In response to Snowdon’s criticism, a government spokesperson said: “The data is clear, indoor environments in which people spend longer periods of time, like restaurants, bars, and pubs intrinsically carry higher risk,” in an email to The Epoch Times.

“We have had to make the difficult decision to prioritise schools and workplaces, which we deem absolutely essential. While hospitality plays a huge role in the UK economy, our communities, and our way of life, it is absolutely essential that we limit the number of indoor environments to bear down on transmission,” the spokesperson added.