‘Good evidence' Covid-19 may be spreading in pubs and restaurants – expert

Dr Michael Head has claimed evidence suggests that the start of a chain of Covid transmission 'is often from an indoor crowded setting such as a pub'
Nina Massey (PA)

THERE is “good evidence” that pubs and restaurants may be where coronavirus is spreading, an expert has said.

Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health, University of Southampton said: “There is good evidence that highlights bars and restaurants as the source of an outbreak. There will then be onward transmission around the community, particularly with household members, but the start of that chain of transmission is often from an indoor crowded setting such as a pub.”

He added: “If we can break that chain of transmission, then we reduce the potential for onward community transmission, hence the reason why there is a focus on the hospitality industry.”

Dr Head pointed to Public Health England's surveillance report, a US CDC study where cases were more likely to have been reported by those dining in restaurants and a study from Hong Kong which suggested a large cluster of cases was traced back to a collection of four bars.

Curfews imposed on pubs and restaurants in Northern Ireland and Britain have been criticised by the hospitality sector, with UKHospitality saying government data suggests a very small proportion of infections out of the home are related to hospitality.

Some scientists have also warned that the measures may be doing more harm than good.

Arguments suggest that the restrictions force people out on to the streets, and public transport, at the same time, creating the possibility of crowds coming together.

The British government's latest weekly surveillance report states that "eating out was the most commonly reported activity in the two to seven days prior to symptom onset."

However, the figures represent where people had been, not necessarily where transmission occurred.

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