The boss of pub chain J D Wetherspoon has blamed “flawed” scientific advice on coronavirus fatality rates for renewed curbs on the hospitality sector.
The pub and hotel chain released remarks Tim Martin was due to make at the company’s annual general meeting as a rival slammed the “scandalous” government approach to the industry during the crisis.
The boss of Revolution Bars, Rob Pitcher, accused ministers of “deliberately sacrificing businesses and people’s livelihoods” as the chain revealed that a slump in annual revenue had pushed it into the red.
The pair piled in as London joins other areas in the toughest Tier 3 restrictions in England, just a fortnight after the conclusion of the country’s second lockdown on 2 December.
In his remarks to investors, Mr Martin said: “In October, the prediction of Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser, of 4,000 deaths per day, upon which the government instigated a second lockdown, proved to be wildly inaccurate.
“It seems certain that the biggest flaw in these predictions has been an overestimation of the fatality rate of COVID-19.”
He went on to say that the predictions that had turned out to be true in 2020 relate to “the effects of lockdowns and government actions on the economy and health”.
JD Wetherspoon reported its first annual loss in 36 years in October and warned that it could not rule out job losses amid the continuing restrictions.
It announced on Tuesday that it was to sell beer on the cheap in the pubs set to close under Tier 3 demands.
The hospitality sector has urged the government to use more than £2bn in business rates relief, being returned mainly by supermarkets, as a fund to help the industry get back on its feet.
A Sky News jobs tracker shows it is worst affected in the crisis to date, with additional restrictions over the crucial Christmas period prompting warnings of more to come despite continued grant and furlough support.
Mr Pitcher appealed to ministers for a boost to the current aid package.
“The recent grants of £1,000 per pub as compensation for being deprived of our most important trading period is derisory and insulting, and underlines a complete lack of understanding of the costs associated with businesses of this nature (even when they are shut) or any sympathy for the consequences of their inept decisions,” he said.
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