Pubs and restaurants could re-open – but only for people who’ve recently had a Covid test, under plans drawn up by MPs.
They warn that hospitality businesses, including bars and nightclubs, could be forced to close permanently unless they get help soon.
Proposals include allowing venues to open if they admit customers who can prove they are not infected. That would mean using “lateral flow” Covid tests, which can give a result within half an hour.
It’s one of the ideas in a report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Night Time Economy, whose members include Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell.
In a report, the MPs said: “The advent of fast reliable mass testing lends itself to the provision of pre-event screening which, coupled with the ongoing vaccination programme, could allow the eventual reopening of nightlife without social distancing in safe and secure conditions.”
MPs fear that the night-time economy, which is the UK’s fifth biggest industry, is in danger of extinction because of the series of lockdowns.
They want Mr Johnson to reveal how and when venues will be allowed to open, when he sets out plans on Monday February 22 for ending the lockdown.
Their report, entitled “Covid-19 and UK Nightlife”, looked at the impact of the pandemic and Government support for businesses in the night time economy, including night clubs, bars, pubs, live music venues, festivals, and supply chain businesses. It involved a survey which received over 20,000 responses from consumers, employers, employees, and freelancers in the sector. Key findings of the survey included:
- 85 per cent of people working in the night time economy are considering leaving the industry
- 78 per cent of all employees in the sector had at some point been on furlough
- Businesses in the night time economy had on average made 37 per cent of their total workforce redundant
- In the second half of 2020, businesses in the night time economy traded at an average of 28 per cent of their annualised pre-Covid turnover
- Only 36% self-employed nightlife workers have been able to claim the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), a Government scheme similar to the furlough policy but aimed at the self-employed
Outside of periods of forced closure, night time economy businesses have seen numerous and changing restrictions on their ability to trade, including curfews, social distancing measures like the “rule of six” and a ban on selling alcohol without a meal.
Ms McKinnell said: “The APPGs report lays bare the scale of the crisis facing the night-time economy, with the survey showing 85% of people working in the sector considering leaving the industry. Nightclubs have on average made over half of their workforce redundant.
“But this is about more than just jobs and money, important though they are. People see nightlife businesses as vital hubs in their local community. Newcastle has a globally renowned night-time economy, regularly featured in guides and magazines as one of the best places to go for an unforgettable night out, and is part of our attraction for both tourists and students.
“If the City’s pubs and clubs don’t survive this pandemic, I think we will be losing a part our character, a part of what makes Newcastle the great city that it is. I don’t want to see that happen, and Government shouldn’t either.”