Drinkers and diners in Liverpool, Newcastle and Manchester are enjoying what could be their last orders this weekend as pubs and restaurants across northern England are widely expected to be told to shut to limit the spread of coronavirus.
It comes amid Government concern that nearly one-third of Covid-19 infections are coming through hospitality settings and follows the start of a 16-day closure of venues across the central belt of Scotland.
Bar staff in Glasgow and Edinburgh locked their doors at 6pm on Friday as the new measures began, with other Scottish venues outside the worst affected areas hit with reduced opening hours and barred from selling alcohol indoors.
A 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants has been in place across the whole of England, Wales and Scotland for just over two weeks.
– Northern England and the Midlands
Council leaders are resisting widely expected restrictions due to be announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday which are expected to affect the hospitality industry across large parts of northern England and the Midlands.
These regions are seeing high rates of coronavirus transmission, with evidence presented to MPs by England’s chief medical officer suggesting 30% of infections are coming through hospitality, according to business minister Nadhim Zahawi.
Bars, restaurants and cafes were reportedly packed in Manchester on Friday as revellers sought to enjoy venues before the likely shutdown.
Council leaders in the West of Yorkshire have warned of a “devastating” effect on town and city centres, while the leader of Newcastle Council, Nick Forbes, said a tighter clampdown would be a “travesty of justice” and Gateshead Council leader Martin Gannon said it would be “counter-productive”.
The Government has said it will pay two-thirds of the wages of workers in any businesses forced to close, which was met with mixed reaction.
Mayors from the north of England said the new measures appeared not to go “far enough” to prevent “genuine hardship, job losses and business failure this winter”.
Until October 25, pubs, bars and restaurants will be closed in five health board areas – Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Lanarkshire, Forth Valley, Lothian and Ayrshire and Arran – affecting more than three million people. These venues can offer a takeaway service, and cafes within the central belt are allowed to stay open during the day, but cannot serve alcohol.
Elsewhere in the country, hospitality venues can open inside from 6am to 6pm to sell soft drinks and food and can serve alcohol outside only until 10pm.
On Friday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the action was necessary to avoid more fatalities after a further six coronavirus-related deaths were recorded in the past 24 hours, adding the decision was “horrendously difficult” to make.
The Scottish Government said it will make an additional £40 million available for affected businesses.
From 6pm on Saturday, people will not be allowed to enter or leave the city of Bangor without a “reasonable excuse” and can only meet people they do not live with outdoors in response to a “significant cluster of cases” particularly among the young.
It comes after Public Health Wales said the transmission of coronavirus in hospitality venues was an “ongoing concern”.
Covid-19 incident director Dr Giri Shankar told BBC Radio Wales on Thursday: “At the moment there still is a concern about ongoing community transmission, and not just pubs but all of the hospitality premises are high risk – where such interactions happen are a continuing concern.
“As we monitor the progress, if there is evidence of insufficient progress and if there is evidence of additional cases coming from other locations then more needs to be done.”
– Northern Ireland
Unlike the rest of the UK countries, drinkers and diners in Northern Ireland have an extra hour to enjoy as venues are operating an 11pm curfew every night apart from 10pm on Sundays.
But health minister Robin Swann has warned the country’s coronavirus situation is getting graver by the hour.
Mr Swann said he had been advised that further restrictions for Northern Ireland are likely to be required in the very near future if positive cases continue their upward trajectory.