Data from ‘100 pubs’ used to justify shutting down boozers across the north

Furious MPs have accused ministers of “cobbling together” data based on fewer than 100 pubs to justify calling last orders at thousands of beloved boozers.

It comes as Boris Johnson faced rising pressure from local councils over plans to plunge millions of Brits in the north to strict lockdown rules from next week.

One Tory said figures used to back the plans to close pubs had been “cobbled together” and “cherry picked” to suit the government’s narrative.

And Sir Keir Starmer accused Downing Street of causing “confusion and chaos” by delaying the announcement of the exact measures until next week.

Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty is reported to have briefed 149 northern and midland MPs yesterday, telling them that hospitality sector was being a “significant proportion” of coronavirus exposure.

According to MailOnline, the professor showed a table suggesting 32 per cent of transmission may be happening in pubs and bars, with only 2.6 per cent happening in homes.

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But MPs have since fumed that the data was “selective” to justify No 10's plans to call last orders on thousands of pubs.

They pointed out how the NHS Test and Trace figures show a huge 75.3 per cent of transmissions take place home, with only 5.5 per cent happening in pubs, restaurants and churches.

And it has since emerged that the data was based on a very small sample size of just 98 pubs and 67 cafes and restaurants.

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A PHE spokesman said each reported case referred to two separate Covid-positive patients who had been in the same venue within the past week.

Included in the presentation given by Chris Whitty was a Cabinet Office document marked 'official sensitive', which referenced a US report from July that found that of 154 positive tests, people were twice as likely to have dined out before developing symptoms.

One Tory MP from a Red Wall seat told The Telegraph: “It was very clear to everyone on the call that they had cobbled together this data as a retrospective attempt to justify closing pubs.

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“Given what we know from the official NHS figures, why are they quoting data from a tiny survey carried out in America? It's just meaningless.”

Another Tory MP who attended the briefing said: “It is clear that the data to justify further action on hospitality is incredibly thin. It is so weak they can't even publish it.”

But on Friday, business minister Nadhim Zahawi insisted it was right to "take action."

He told the BBC: "The evidence that Chris Whitty shared with my colleagues, northern MPs yesterday, does demonstrate that between restaurants, bars and cafes about 30 per cent of the infections are coming through that hospitality, social interactions, if I can describe it as such.

"And it is only right that we take action with the local leadership, with public health local teams, because they know their area best."

It comes after the British Beer and Pub Association warned that the data was not strong enough to justify pulling the shutters down on Britain’s boozers.

Altus Group, a real estate advisor, estimated that 7,200 pubs in the North could be closed down – one in five of all English pubs.

Downing Street has said that no decisions have yet been made on lockdown measures.

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