'Let us shut pubs': Plea for power to force venues to close if they breach lockdown rules

Calls have been made for councils to be given the power to shut pubs and bars caught flouting social distancing rules.

Saturday, 8th August 2020, 12:33 pm

Today (August 8) marks the start of new government-imposed restrictions in Preston aimed at reversing the rise in new cases of Covid-19.

The recent surge in the infection rate has been blamed on people meeting inside homes and in venues such as pubs.

And the city council's chief executive has echoed the Local Government Association's plea to make it easier for authorities to act if venues are "part of the problem".

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People meeting up in places like pubs is among the reasons given for the increase in coronavirus cases in Preston

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Adrian Phillips said: "I think we need that."

He said having "responsive powers" would enable local authorities to step in if venues are found to be ignoring rules aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus - although he added that "all venues" in the city were currently following the rules.

"It's useful that we can move quickly," he added, saying that current enforcement methods are "quite exhaustive".

The LGA has argued the existing powers only allow councils to act in cases where there is already a "serious and imminent risk to public health" and changing the rules would allow officials to act before it is too late.

Coun Nesil Caliskan, chairman of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “It needs to be mandatory for premises to follow this government safety guidance and councils need the right powers to intervene and take action if necessary.

“It does not take long for this virus to spread if allowed. While councils do not want to have to shut anywhere down, business owners need to know that councils have the power to act if local communities are put at risk.”

Mr Phillips also warned that young people - who may not be showing symptoms - appear to be contributing to the recent rise in infections and urged them to follow the rules to keep others safe.

"It is also alarming to see that the under-30s are contracting it at a significant rate," he added - with almost 50 per cent of recent patients in that age bracket.

“I know our director of public health has said ‘don’t kill granny’ to young people to try and focus the message.

“Young people are inevitably among the brave and the bold, they want to be adventurous and out and about but we know that they have the virus, are more likely to at the moment, they often have less symptoms but they do take it back to their household and the community spread we are seeing we believe in many cases are young people taking it home and catching the virus.

“We’re going to have to repeat it and whether Radio 4 is the correct channel for that I’m not quite sure but we’re using multiple channels and we’re working with community groups who are doing peer to peer comms around.

“It’s just trying so many different ways to get the message to all communities, to all areas of our city that the virus is still something to be really wary of.”