‘Common sense or evidence?’ Robert Jenrick grilled as Britons brace for new restrictions

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Robert Jenrick was confronted with pubs and restaurants owners’ demands the Government shows evidence upon which the 10pm coronavirus curfew for hospitality businesses was based. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that it was “commonsensical” that the longer individuals spend in pubs the more likely they are to transmit the virus and stressed the need to “take action decisively”. But the Communities Secretary was blasted by BBC host Mishal Husain who insisted: “Common sense or evidence?

“You mentioned that there was evidence.”

Mr Jenrick replied: “There is evidence guided by the chief medical officer and the chief scientific officer.

“Of course, we will gather more of that in the days and weeks to come but I think it is right that we take action decisively rather that waiting for the most detailed epidemiological evidence to emerge.”

It comes as ministers are considering imposing fresh regional restrictions amid a spike in cases in northern England.

Jenrick said on Thursday ministers are “currently considering what steps we should take” as he warned of a “fast and serious situation” in the North.

The Government in Westminster is under increasing pressure to act after Scotland announced fresh restrictions on the hospitality sector.

Dr Adam Kucharski, a scientist advising the Government, warned that there are “pretty serious” outbreaks in parts of England and medics warned of increasing hospital admissions.

Mr Jenrick was pressed on whether new restrictions on the hospitality industry could come as early as Monday as rates soar in cities including Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle.

“It is correct to say the number of cases in the North West and the North East and a number of cities, particularly in the Midlands like Nottingham, are rising fast and that is a serious situation,” he told BBC Breakfast.

“We are currently considering what steps we should take, obviously taking the advice of our scientific and medical advisers, and a decision will be made shortly.”

But he said that a “localised but proportionate response has to be the way forwards” amid calls from experts to impose new national measures.

The Cabinet Minister said he was working with Chancellor Rishi Sunak to consider fresh support for the hospitality sector because businesses could be put in a “really difficult, intolerable position”.

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Dr Kucharski, a member of the Government’s scientific pandemic influenza group on modelling, warned of worsening infection rates in parts of England.

“So, I think we are in a situation where cases are rising and they are going to continue to rise unless something changes,” the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine scientist told Today.

“We have got now good evidence that a lot of transmission particularly happens at prolonged indoor interactions, particularly among close-knit gatherings, so, obviously pubs and restaurants are one potential setting for that to happen.”

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