Pubs' 10pm curfew had little effect on reducing spread of coronavirus, study suggests

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A barman at the Seven Stars pub in Brighton cleans the bar area after closing as from today pubs and restaurants will be subject to a 10pm curfew to combat the rise in coronavirus cases in England.
The 10pm curfew had little effect in reducing people's contact with each other to prevent the spread of coronavirus, a study has found. (Getty)

The 10pm closing time for pubs and restaurants introduced in September last year did little to reduce the spread of coronavirus, a study has suggested.

Scientists from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) used data from nearly 4,000 Britons to analyse the effects of various aspects of local and national restrictions put in place last year to see how they affected the spread of the virus.

In the study, published in the journal BMC Medicine, they said there was "little to no evidence that the 10 pm closing time for bars and restaurants had any appreciable effect" in reducing the number of contacts that people mixed with, suggesting it did little to spread the reduce of the virus.

The study results will lend weight to criticism by the hospitality industry that the imposition of some restrictions were unnecessary and caused huge damage to the sector.

Watch: 10pm curfew: 'Government are nuts!'

The researchers used data from the UK CoMix survey - an online survey where people were asked to record details of their direct contact with others the previous day - and government information on local and national restrictions.

They then used the data to compare the number of contacts people reported in different settings like work, school and home before and after various restrictions including the 'Rule of Six' on 14 September, the 10pm curfew on 24 September, the introduction of the tier system on 14 October, and the national lockdown in November 2020.

Read more: Have Your Say: Should companies have 'no jab, no job' policies for new staff?

The researchers said they compared contacts people made other than those at home work or school among 3,887 participants before and after the 10pm closure.

They found there was strong evidence to suggest that more people than expected reduced their contacts after the 10pm rule due to chance, but more than half recorded the same number.

The results suggest that the measure had no impact on reducing the spread of the disease by people coming into contact with each other.

Its authors added: "Along with many other countries, England transitioned from a national lockdown approach to more localised interventions with less restrictive national measures and subsequently reverted to a national lockdown in the autumn of 2020.

"We determine that the impact of these measures is mixed: the imposition of local measures (which were very varied in different places) and the Rule of Six probably led to modest reductions in contacts; instructions to work from home if possible led to a larger reduction in contact, whereas there is little to no evidence that the 10 pm closing time for bars and restaurants had any appreciable effect."

In October it emerged that the government’s own scientific advisers warned that the 10pm curfew would only have a “marginal impact” on the spread of coronavirus.

Documents published from the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) showed that experts dismissed the idea of a curfew exactly a week before it was implemented across England.

In a document from 17 September, seven days before the 10pm curfew came into force, Sage wrote: “Curfews likely to have a marginal impact. Low confidence.”

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