Boris Johnson has defended the controversial 10pm curfew and blamed people who choose to “hobnob” outside pubs after hours for the sometimes chaotic scenes in city centres at closing time.
Scientists advising the Government have already warned that the measure may be doing more harm than good, with long queues forming outside off-licences as people rush to buy more alcohol and revellers piling onto public transport with little or no social distancing.
The Prime Minister also said that if the Eat Out To Help Out discount scheme had helped to spread Covid-19, then that needs to be counteracted with “discipline”.
Asked to provide hard scientific evidence for the 10pm curfew, the Prime Minister told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “Well the scientific evidence is of course that the virus is transmitted by person-to-person contact.
“Yes it’s transmitted in homes, it’s transmitted between people, but it’s also transmitted in what they call the hospitality sectors, it’s transmitted in pubs and bars and restaurants, particularly as people get more convivial as the evening goes on.”
He added: “One of the things that has been put to us is that by curtailing the hours you can reduce the transmission.”
Mr Johnson said people “just need to follow the guidance”, adding: “Obviously it makes no sense if, having followed the guidance for all the time in the pub, they then pour out into the street and hobnob in such a way as to spread the virus.”
He added: “The answer is for all of us to follow the guidance.”
It was put to Mr Johnson that the Government was paying the public to go and eat out, and to return to offices, which had spread the virus.
He told Marr: “I take full responsibility for everything that’s happened since the pandemic began of course.
“And the Government is trying as I say throughout this to strike a balance.
“We had to go into lockdown in March and April and that was effective in bringing the virus down.
“I think it was right to reopen the economy. I think if we hadn’t done that Andrew, if we hadn’t got things moving again in the summer, I mean we would be looking at many more hundreds of thousands of jobs lost.”
It was again suggested that Eat Out To Help Out had spread the virus.
Mr Johnson told the programme: “I also think, I also think that it is important now, irrespective of whether Eat Out To Help Out you know, what the balance of there was, it unquestionably helped to protect many… there are two million jobs at least in the hospitality sector.
“It was very important to keep those jobs going. Now, if it, insofar as that scheme may have helped to spread the virus, then obviously we need to counteract that and we need to counteract that with the discipline and the measures that we’re proposing.
“I hope you understand the balance we’re trying to strike.”