Fears Wetherspoon pubs could lead to a surge in coronavirus cases after ignoring contact tracing rules

The Windmill, the JD Wetherspoon's pub at Stansted Airport. Photograph: Contributed/Archant.

The Windmill, the JD Wetherspoon's pub at Stansted Airport. Photograph: Contributed/Archant. - Credit: Archant

An MP has raised concerns that Wetherspoon pubs could lead to a surge in coronavirus cases after claims that the pubs are not doing enough to prevent the spread of the disease.

It follows reports from the Daily Record which visited a number of Scottish pubs and were not asked for any details, and were not encouraged by staff to use the online system.

The Guardian also visited a popular south London establishment and found no rules were enforced over social distancing, and the pub made no attempts to ask for personal details.

It was a similar picture around the country with the Eastern Daily Press reporting similar in Norfolk, while Gloucestershire Live reported no attempt to ask for details at Glocuester Docks.

Helen Hayes, the Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, said: 'When so many pubs and restaurants are welcoming customers back with very strict protocols to keep everyone safe and prevent the further spread of coronavirus, it is really concerning to hear reports of some pubs which are allowing overcrowding and not insisting on customer contact details for track and trace.

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'They are putting lives at risk and I've asked local environmental health officers to investigate urgently.'

At the start of the lockdown pub chain boss Tim Martin denied the coronavirus could be effectively spread through pubs, claiming that 'there's hardly been any transmission of the virus within pubs and I think it's over the top to shut them'.

But in recent weeks eight staff members in Gorleston were sent home after a Wetherspoon employee tested positive, one of its venues in Carlisle closed temporarily after a member of staff tested positive, and a pub in Rotherham closed for a deep clean after a customer tested positive.

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A spokesperson for Wetherspoon said: 'The absence of music, for example, and high food sales attract all age groups. In the good weather of recent weeks, there may have been a higher than usual number of young people in pubs generally.

'The company is making strenuous efforts to comply with the regulations around social distancing. Whereas it is not possible to create an entirely risk-free environment, the company will continue to modify and improve its systems in response to Covid-19 and will review the procedures at any individual pub which is the subject of complaint.'

They added that managers are advised to ask customers to write down their details to put in 'ballot boxes' in the pub, or can sue an online system when seated at their table.

'The combined systems have worked well and 616,192 customers have registered using the system across the entire company across the first five days this week (to 14 August), which equates to one registration per £46.21 of sales, bearing in mind only one member of each group needs to register.'

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