Why have restrictions been introduced on the sale of alcohol after 10pm?
Whilst the majority of hospitality businesses across Wales are operating safe environments for their customers, there is scientific evidence that alcohol consumption still presents a major risk factor in the spread of infectious diseases. The effect of drinking alcohol – particularly drinking too much alcohol – can make people engage in more risk-taking behaviours. It can also make it harder for people to recall where they have been and who they were in close contact with if they are asked by contact tracing teams in the event someone tests positive. This is supported by concerns from local authorities and the police over a breakdown in social distancing by groups of people following extended periods of alcohol consumption and from groups of people visiting multiple premises.
The 10pm (22.20) ban on alcohol sales has been introduced to minimise these risks. It also balances consideration for the hospitality industry itself, enabling these valued businesses to continue operating at present, albeit on a more restricted basis in the current context of rising Covid-19 infection rates.
We are acutely aware of the immense challenges the hospitality sector is facing as a result of the measures taken to protect public health and save lives. Whilst we know the majority of hospitality businesses are working hard to comply, cases and clusters have been linked to hospitality settings, and local authorities have taken enforcement action against pubs and restaurants where they have identified breaches of regulations – this includes, in some cases, closure notices. We are committed to doing everything we can to support the sector through this incredibly difficult period and thank them for the way they have responded to date. We do not want to be in a position where the prevalence of the virus is such that we will have to take even more stringent measures that could further impact the already hard-hit businesses in this sector.
What evidence exists on the spread of Covid-19 in hospitality settings?
When people disregard social distancing the risk of COVID-19 infection rates rise. This is not necessarily as a result of hospitality businesses not putting suitable measures in place but is more about people’s behaviour and interactions in and around these settings.
Whilst one particular setting cannot be singled out, measures need to be taken in settings where social interactions typically last for 15 minutes or more. Since the introduction of time limited opening hours in local lockdown areas, there is evidence of a reduction in the number of contacts identified by individuals who have tested positive. We will continue to gather evidence to help inform our future decision making.
Is consideration being given towards temporarily closing hospitality premises in Wales?
Any decision taken to introduce additional restrictions will be subject to on-going review taking a wide range of factors into consideration. This includes the prevalence of the virus and level of infection rate, test positivity rates, patient admission rates, cases in intensive care, mortality rates and how quickly local clusters are tackled. Changes in these factors could lead to additional restrictions being introduced.