Transport Secretary Grant Shapps appeared on BBC Question Time and clashed with Jeremy King who has been in the hospitality industry for over 40 years. Mr King used ONS data to criticise Mr Shapps and the Government by pointing out infection rates in pubs were extremely low. Grant Shapps fired back and said there was a “huge difference” between being indoors and outdoors that was backed up by science which split opinions on the show.
Speaking on BBC Question Time, host Fiona Bruce asked Mr King: “Let’s talk about the risk of indoor settings and the risk of infections ticking up as they did, slowly, but they did begin to tick up over the summer as indoor venues and hospitality began to open.
“Does that not give you pause?”
Mr King replied: “We would pause but in fact, the Government figures showed absolutely the opposite.
“We’ve seen .5 percent infection among customers, the Government and the ONS have actually produced the figures themselves.
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“The infection risk is very very low in these situations and I don’t understand this idea that being outside suddenly you’re less vulnerable perhaps but you’re not safe.
“I walked through Soho where people are sitting cheek by jowl shouting each other in the noise, this is not safe.
“Covid does not respect the fact that you’re outside, there’s a much greater facet that it is actually how close you are to people.
“And also the practicality of it, I do despair that sometimes that they got nobody in the Government had actually worked in the hospitality industry and that this is all committee decisions.”
Mr Shapps replied: “We’re just desperate to open everything up, of course we are, but you know you call it the decision by committee, the reality is, as you suggested, you have to weigh up the extent to which people have sacrificed staying inside.
“We tried to open it up, with all the new variants, you know, this is not a straightforward simple decision from one perspective and James you’ve said a couple of times that I didn’t quite answer your question, I just want to give it another go for you.
“Let me try and fix it, people sitting on a bench outside, two people drinking a coffee, is I’m afraid, very, very different.
“And James there’s a pile of evidence that actually when you’re indoors that is how it spreads much more.
“All scientists say this, when I speak to Chris Whitty it’s the first thing they say outdoor is much safer than indoor.
“And once you introduce alcohol into it as well, once you introduce more people into it, unfortunately, and these things will add up.
“A lot of the time you could say well we can do A, B or C and what’s the logic between them.
“The answer is you have to make a distinction somewhere and our distinction is we think schools should go back first.”
According to the roadmap laid out by Boris Johnson on Monday, hospitality will reopen on April 12 for outdoor service.
On May 17, pubs and restaurants can allow people indoors/.
Both of these dates are subject to the rule of six guidelines and the dates may change if cases and death rates increase.
All legal requirements for restrictions will be lifted on June 21 but some businesses may keep some rules – like mask-wearing and social distancing – regardless.