Wether­spoon founder queries pro­fes­sor’s Covid-19 pubs claim

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By

Han­nah Ut­t­ley WETHER­SPOON boss Tim Martin has called on a top sci­en­tist to share his ev­i­dence link­ing an Aberdeen coron­avirus out­break to cus­tomers in pubs.

The out­spo­ken pub chain chair­man took aim at Aberdeen Univer­sity’s bac­te­ri­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor Hugh Pen­ning­ton, who said a re­cent out­break in the Scot­tish city was tied to trans­mis­sion among drinkers.

Mr Martin said: “Given the im­por­tance of the pub in­dus­try to its staff, cus­tomers and as a tax­payer to the Ex­che­quer, it would be very use­ful if Pro­fes­sor Pen­ning­ton could pub­lish the ba­sis of his as­sump­tions, so that they could be thor­oughly an­a­lysed and peer-re­viewed.”

In an in­ter­view with BBC Ra­dio 5 Live last week, Prof Pen­ning­ton said the virus was more likely to be trans­mit­ted in an in­door en­vi­ron­ment such as a pub. He added: “Maybe it’s hot and a bit steamy – helps the virus to get about”.

First Min­is­ter Ni­cola Stur­geon im­posed a new lock­down on Aberdeen last week, forc­ing the clo­sure of pubs and restau­rants and plac­ing re­stric­tions on travel and in­ter­ac­tions be­tween house­holds. Cases have since fallen but Ms Stur­geon said yes­ter­day that it is still too early to ease re­stric­tions.

Mr Martin agreed that the crowded at­mos­phere and “un­in­hib­ited” be­hav­iour as­so­ci­ated with pubs could plau­si­bly lead to trans­mis­sion of the virus.

But the Wether­spoon boss ar­gued that Prof Pen­ning­ton’s re­marks should be scru­ti­nised due to the con­tin­ued un­cer­tainty over Covid.

Mr Martin, whose firm runs 870 wa­ter­ing holes across the UK, said that only five of Wether­spoon’s 43,000 staff had tested pos­i­tive for Covid be­fore the lock­down was im­posed. Since re­open­ing, he said, there had been a “hand­ful” of pos­i­tive tests but no ev­i­dence of trans­mis­sion be­tween ei­ther staff or cus­tomers.

He added: “It seems clear that there have been high lev­els of trans­mis­sion in hos­pi­tals, care homes, abat­toirs and cer­tain pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties.

“Un­til now, the ev­i­dence sur­round­ing pubs in the UK has re­ally been based on sup­po­si­tion. The sit­u­a­tion presents an ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­nity for a proper sci­en­tific in­ves­ti­ga­tion into an ex­tremely im­por­tant in­dus­try.”

Prof Pen­ning­ton could not be reached for com­ment.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.