Pubs 'should be shut down' if they are linked to small coronavirus outbreaks

Phil Weaver, owner of The Old Smithy in Church Lawford, Warwickshire pours a drink as pub and hospitality bosses have cheered the Government's proposals to allow customers through their doors again on July 4 as "a welcome relief". (Photo by Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images)
Phil Weaver, owner of The Old Smithy in Church Lawford, Warwickshire, pours a drink. (Getty)

Pubs should be forced to close if a coronavirus outbreak is traced back to them, a scientist has said.

Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday that social distancing will be relaxed from two metres to “one metre plus” in England from 4 July, which will allow pubs, restaurants and hotels to reopen.

But the prime minister said the distance could only be reduced if companies followed mitigation measures to stop the spread of the virus in confined spaces, like wearing masks and using protective screens.

Writing in the Scottish Daily Mail, Professor Hugh Pennington said that should there be a localised outbreak in a place such as a bar when the rule is relaxed, it could simply be shut down and the rest of the population would not be affected.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon has asked her scientific advisers to look into reducing the two-metre rule in Scotland in certain measures, with a report expected by 2 July.

The nation will allow beer gardens and other outdoor hospitality to reopen on 6 July.

Prof Pennington, the emeritus professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, said there is “every reason” Scotland should also reduce the social distancing rule.

He wrote: “There is no reason we should not be following England and reducing the social distancing limit to one metre and every reason we should be in order to get the economy and education system going again.

“If we do see a localised outbreak of COVID, for example if there is an outbreak linked to a particularly busy pub, we can step in and close it down again.

“The whole country does not need to go back into lockdown.”

The microbiologist added he believes one reason for sticking to the two-metre rule could be the first minister’s inherent caution when making decisions about the virus.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - JUNE 18: Nicola Sturgeon MSP First Minister takes part in the First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament Holyrood on June 18, 2020 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Fraser Bremner - Pool/Getty Images)
Nicola Sturgeon has announced that Scotland will reopen beer gardens on 6 July. (Getty)

Sturgeon has repeatedly said at the daily coronavirus press briefing that caution should still be used when making a decision about COVID-19 to ensure there is not a resurgence of the virus.

Johnson has encouraged people to return to England’s pubs, but said they should act responsibly and that those enjoying the British tradition of a pint should give their names on arrival.

“All hospitality indoors will be limited to table service and our guidance will encourage minimal staff and customer contact,” he said in parliament.

“We will ask businesses to help NHS Test and Trace respond to any local outbreaks by collecting contact details from customers.”

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