PUBS and restaurants in Covid hotspots have been hit with a fresh raft of tough restrictions in an attempt to curb the virus spreading.
Yet, new figures from Public Health England appear to show the hospitality sector has been linked to just 40 out of 1,211 outbreaks in the last week.
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It's equivalent to 3.5 per cent of all outbreaks reported to PHE in the week ending October 11.
The previous set of data, from the week ending September 27, has been linked to just 33 of 782 outbreaks – or 4.2 per cent.
In England outbreaks are occurring more frequently in schools, universities and workplaces, according to the latest data.
PHE has been recording the number of acute respiratory infection (ARI) incidents – including Covid-19, influenza and other seasonal respiratory viruses – by institution since July 2.
The report published today suggests that of the 40 incidents from food outlet/restaurant settings, 29 had at least one linked case that tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, which is the name of the virus that causes Covid-19.
By comparison, 336 incidents were from educational settings, 279 had at least one linked case that tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.
The highest case rates continue to be observed among those aged 10-29, with a rate of 245.2 per 100,000 population for the 10-19 age group and 252.6 per 100,000 for those aged 20-29.
Incidence and positivity rates remained highest in the North West, North East and Yorkshire and Humber, according to the report.
Hospital admissions were also highest in the North West of England, with rates highest among those over the age of 75.
It is important to note the PHE data does not encompass all outbreaks, or infections – just those reported to them.
Another key thing to note is each outbreak can include multiple cases where people are infected, and this data does not account for that.
Dr Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director for Public Health England, said: “We’re now seeing about 40 per cent of positive cases among young adults in their late teens and early twenties, which is causing the disease to spread rapidly throughout the community and older people.
"And while there are fewer cases among older people, they are far more likely to get seriously ill.
"That means we are also seeing a worrying increase in people aged over 75 being admitted to hospital.
"We must be prepared for the number of deaths to rise rapidly as a result.
“This picture is particularly acute in the North of England, with the North West the region worst affected."
Millions more people in London and across England will face tougher coronavirus restrictions from Saturday.
The capital, along with Essex, Elmbridge, Barrow-in-Furness, York, North East Derbyshire, Erewash and Chesterfield will move into the second tier of measures – including a ban on households mixing indoors, including pubs and restaurants.
It comes at a time where hospitality businesses are already struggling from months of closures earlier in the year and now social distancing rules.
Coronavirus is understood to spread faster and easier indoors because particles are able to linger in the air rather than be blown away outside.
But hospitality bosses warn another full shutdown could signal the end for many and have urged the Government not take the same action again.
Yet, today the Health Secretary announced that more than half of England's population will be under Tier 2 "high" alert or Tier 3 "very high" restrictions.
Mr Hancock told MPs: "Let us be under no illusions about the danger posed by this virus.
"Coronavirus is deadly and it is now spreading exponentially in the UK."
The new tiered system only came into effect on Wednesday and the decision to re-categorise areas so soon is an indication of growing concerns about the speed at which the virus is again spreading.
Liverpool City Region, comprising 1.6 million people, remains the only area currently in Tier 3.
A further 26.7 million people will now be covered by the Tier 2 restrictions.
The Health Secretary said: "We must take firm and balanced decisions to keep this virus under control.
"This is the only way to protect lives and livelihoods – and we must act now.
"Delayed action means more deaths from Covid, it means more non-Covid deaths and it means more economic pain later."
London Mayor Sadiq Khan told City Hall the move to Tier 2 is based on "expert public health and scientific advice about what is necessary to save lives in the capital" but stressed that he was pushing for extra support from the Government.
"Nobody wants to see more restrictions – but this is deemed to be necessary in order to protect Londoners' lives by myself, London council leaders and by ministers," he said.
The ban on households mixing indoors could be devastating for the capital's 3,640 pubs and 7,556 restaurants, which will see business suffer but will not be eligible for Government support available to premises which have been ordered to close.
Tory MP Nickie Aiken, who represents the Cities of London and Westminster, said: "Whilst I appreciate the public health crisis we find ourselves in, I remain deeply concerned about the impact further lockdown will have on the capital's hospitality, leisure and retail businesses."
John Spence, Essex County Council's cabinet member for health and adult social care, acknowledged pubs and restaurants will feel the impact of Tier 2 restrictions in the county.
"It's so tough," he said. "When you've built up a business over years – whatever it may be, a pub or a restaurant – you are of course going to feel the impact of this.
"And all I can say to all the people in that category is the fact we honestly believe this is the best way of avoiding a much more severe outcome in Tier 3.
"Secondly, we honestly believe that by doing this now we can avoid being in Tier 2 for a much longer period later."
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland is braced for the toughest controls in the UK so far with pubs and restaurants set to close for four weeks from Friday and schools facing a two-week shutdown.
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