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Fresh legal action launched against government’s Covid restrictions

The UK government is facing fresh legal action against its coronavirus restrictions in England as a group of leading officials, brewers and restaurants back the challenge.

According to the Guardian and Manchester Evening News, the move is being led by Sacha Lord, the night time economy adviser for Greater Manchester. The action challenges the legality of shutting hospitality outlets in areas with high levels of coronavirus cases ahead of a government announcement later today.

Lord is being supported by the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), major brewers JW Lees, Joseph Holts and Robinsons and around 10 other companies which include pub operators, bars and restaurants.

Lord said in a statement: “There is currently no tangible scientific evidence to merit a full closure of the hospitality and entertainment sectors. Our discussions and ongoing calls for evidence have been ignored and we have therefore been left with little choice but to escalate the matter further.”

Michael Kill, chief executive of the NTIA, added: “These new measures will have a catastrophic impact on late night businesses, and are exacerbated further by an insufficient financial support package presented by the Chancellor in an attempt to sustain businesses through this period. Systematic closure of businesses across the UK must be challenged when there is no clear evidence or reason.”

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said the government’s support package to aid affected businesses announced last week does not go far enough.

He said: “While it may be possible for people on middle or higher earnings to live on two thirds of their salary, that is not the case for the low-paid staff who work in hospitality. They do not have the luxury of being able to pay only two thirds of their rent or their bills.

“Earlier this year, the government set its national furlough scheme at 80%. We can see no justifiable reason why the local furlough scheme should be set at 67%. To accept it would be to treat hospitality workers as second-class citizens and we think that is wrong. Many of these workers have already faced severe hardship this year.”

Lord has instructed lawyers to submit a draft of the challenge to Downing Street today. Last week Jeremy Joseph, the owner of nightclub chain G-A-Y launched a legal challenge to the UK government’s restrictions on the hospitality and leisure sector. 

The news comes as the Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce new restrictions in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19. It has been reported that Johnson will announce the introduction of a three-tier system for controlling the virus, allowing specific areas of the country to be placed in lockdown.

The Liverpool city region is expected to face the tightest restrictions as part of the new scheme. However, there are now reports that while pubs will be forced to close, restaurants may be allowed to remain open.

It is thought that Manchester may also face the strictest level of restrictions.

The changes to the coronavirus guidelines will be announced in the House of Commons later today, before a press conference is held at Downing Street at 6pm.

According to the latest data from Public Health England, the number of confirmed acute respiratory infection incidents (which includes Covid-19, flu and other respiratory pathogens) last week from food outlet or restaurant settings was 33 (out of a total of 782), of which 24 had at least one linked case that tested positive for Covid-19.

This compares with 296 incidents from educational settings, 204 from workplace settings and 143 incidents from care homes.

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