Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has insisted there was “definitely science” behind the 10pm curfew for hospitality venues.
Dowden was questioned on reports from a Sage scientist (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies), who claimed that the group had never talked about the impact of the policy of closing hospitality services earlier.
Professor Graham Medley said: “I never discussed it or heard it discussed.”
He added: “We put forward, what we think works, but it’s the government which decides what package of measures to put forward and, in the end, it’s a societal decision.”
Another scientist, Professor John Edmunds, said the curfew was “fairly trivial” and would have a “very small impact on the epidemic”.
But Dowden told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “There is definitely science behind it, that’s why we’re requiring people to be seated in pubs and restaurants, so that stops the flow of them to and from the bar.
“We are reducing the closing times to stop people staying later and drinking. And the point about all of this is that everyone has their part to play. If we all play by the rules, we can ensure that there are not further, more draconian restrictions.”
On theatres not reopening, he said: “Against this backdrop of rapidly rising infections, much as I would like to contemplate further easements we can’t do it at this stage.
“We are working intensively with all of the arts sector and theatres to see how we can mitigate risks so that we can go down that path – but we have had to stall on that path, given where we are with the rapidly rising infections.”