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Suffolk gastropub boss: ‘We’re being made scapegoats’ over rising Covid rate

PUBLISHED: 17:04 21 September 2020 | UPDATED: 17:04 21 September 2020

Health secretary Matt Hancock recognised 'long Covid' at the parliamentary health and social care committee earlier this month Picture: PA/STEFAN ROUSSEAU

Health secretary Matt Hancock recognised 'long Covid' at the parliamentary health and social care committee earlier this month Picture: PA/STEFAN ROUSSEAU

PA Wire/PA Images

The boss of a Suffolk gastropub has accused the government of using the hospitality industry as a scapegoat, after Matt Hancock did not rule out closing England’s pubs this weekend.

Owner Brendan Padfield said he thought pubs and restaurants were being scapegoated by the government  Picture: CLAUDIA GANNONOwner Brendan Padfield said he thought pubs and restaurants were being scapegoated by the government Picture: CLAUDIA GANNON

The health secretary and West Suffolk MP said on Monday that the government had not yet taken the “final decisions” on what response was necessary to rising Covid-19 infection rate, but said the changes would be announced in the “very, very near future”.

On ITV’s This Morning, Mr Hancock was asked whether landlords would be told to shut this weekend.

The cabinet minister said his answer on pubs was “not a no, and it’s not a yes”, adding: “We have been working on this all weekend, we haven’t taken the final decisions about what we need to do in response to the surge that we have seen in the last few weeks.”

Matt Hancock refused to say whether pubs would still be open this weekend on ITV's This Morning on Monday.  Pictured: Matt Hancock appearing on breakfast TV over the weekend. Picture: JEFF OVERS/BBCMatt Hancock refused to say whether pubs would still be open this weekend on ITV's This Morning on Monday. Pictured: Matt Hancock appearing on breakfast TV over the weekend. Picture: JEFF OVERS/BBC

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Brendan Padfield, owner of the Unruly Pig in Woodbridge, said it felt like the government was scapegoating pubs and restaurants.

“It’s disturbing to say the very least,” he said. “This is a government riddled with U-turns that seems to lack direction.

“It does feel a bit as if we’re being made scapegoats.

“We have 2.5million people’s jobs in this country who are dependent upon hospitality. I employ over 30 people.

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“We were just getting back on our feet and now there’s this. And it’s not even supported by evidence.”

In an appearance on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme on Friday, September 18, Mr Hancock said: “We know that the vast majority of transmissions happen in social settings, whether that’s in hospitality or in people’s own homes.”

Mr Padfield said: “If you look at Public Health England data it shows that in Week 37 [of 2020], of the 729 new incidents only 34 were linked to food outlets or restaurant settings.

“This compares with 313 incidents in care homes and 193 from educational settings and 110 from workplaces.

“Ironically the data from the government’s own Public Health England appears not to support their case.”

Reports available online from Public Health England show that the figures cited by Mr Padfield are correct.

Mr Padfield went on to say that he had invested around £20,000 in Covid-secure measures at his pub restaurant.

He called upon the government to balance the evidence of where infections were occurring with the impact that any measures would have on the economy.

Mr Hancock said on breakfast TV that he spoke to the prime minister on Monday morning, adding: “He is as worried as we all are about the rise in the number of cases and we have to make a final decision about what’s the best response to that.”

Boris Johnson is expected to address the nation on Tuesday.


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