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Economy minister defends dubious data showing 30% of Covid patients can get the disease in pubs


A economy minister today defended government claims that 30 percent of all coronavirus transmissions are in pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants after angry MPs accused ministers of cobbling together numbers to justify their point based on weak data less than 100 pubs.

Nadhim Zahawi MP argued the sample was "fairly representative" at LBC breakfast this morning and stated that he would use a similar number of venues for corporate surveys.

"I used to work in the services industry, and I can tell you if you do business surveys, 98 companies or 100 companies are actually a pretty representative sample," he said. “If you hold public opinion, 1,000 interviews is a representative sample. It's actually a pretty robust sample. & # 39;

And the Prime Minister's deputy spokesman dug his heels in today, claiming that eateries have "highest rates of joint exposure to Covid-19, especially for those under the age of 30".

His claim comes after angry MPs beat the government up for giving them the "early analysis" numbers and criticized officials' decision to include a three-month-old American study from which they picked the numbers, to back up their claims.

In slides from yesterday's press conference led by Professor Chris Whitty, released today after the leak, it was alleged that grocery stores and bars accounted for up to 41 percent of the broadcast among those under 30. However, this was in stark contrast to data released by Public Health England which found that only four percent of Covid-19 outbreaks were due to the venues.

And NHS Test and Trace numbers show that 75.3 percent of broadcasts are at home, with just 5.5 percent in pubs, restaurants and churches.

It was announced today that the NHS coronavirus app has only sent one outbreak-related warning in one location since it launched two weeks ago, despite millions of check-ins and more than 16 million downloads.

Shadow digital minister Chi Onwurah told Sky News that this was "a clear contradiction" to the government's claim that 30 percent of broadcasting could take place in pubs and said ministers needed to "get a grip".

After ministers confirmed they weren't going to close schools, experts argued that they had few options left to reduce social interaction. This is where the virus is spreading – meaning the ax may fall on the hospitality sector. However, many scientists have spoken out against tightening the measures – and urged ministers to learn how to deal with the virus instead.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty yesterday informed 149 MPs from the North and Midlands that a "significant proportion" of exposure to coronavirus is in the hospitality industry.

The government claimed in a private press conference yesterday that up to 30 percent of coronavirus transmission is associated with pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants. The slides leaked – and today ministers decided to publish them in full. Above is one of the 13 slides from the press conference

This slide, revealed today, was also shown at the briefing. It shows how high the infection rates are among young people

This slide, revealed today, was also shown at the meeting. It shows how high the infection rates are among young people

Leaked Slide: This slide has also been leaked and shows hospital stays across England between August and October

Leaked Slide: This slide has also been leaked and shows hospital stays across England between August and October

Slide Published Online: Another version of the slide has been published by the government. It has also been claimed that within three weeks hospital stays could reach the same level as the peak of the pandemic in the northwest

Slide Published Online: Another version of the slide has been published by the government. It has also been claimed that within three weeks hospital stays could reach the same level as the peak of the pandemic in the northwest

HOW DID EXPERTS CALCULATE HOW MANY PEOPLE CATCH COVID-19 IN PUBS?

English chief physician Professor Chris Whitty reportedly showed MPs data suggesting that 41 percent of people who tested positive for Covid-19 in England admit a hotel business such as a pub, restaurant or in the days leading up to their diagnosis to visit a cafe.

But it turned out last night that Public Health England had only compiled the data with a small sample size that covered only 98 pubs and 67 cafes.

According to the PHE, every pub or cafe counted on the list was linked to two or more positive Covid-19 tests.

Industry leaders say it's unfair to tar the entire sector with the same brush – new lockdown rules are expected in large parts of England next week, requiring restaurants to close completely or reduce their opening hours. They have already been hired in Scotland.

The exposure data is based on NHS Test & Trace surveys of people who tested positive for coronavirus.

It asks patients what they did in the days leading up to their diagnosis to get an idea of ​​where and how the virus is most likely to spread.

While hospitality seems to be common – but less common than contact with family members – the data doesn't prove that people actually catch the virus when they're on the go. It may just be that this is the most common leisure activity people do now.

There are no comparable data to determine what percentage of the population – regardless of their Covid status – visited pubs or cafes in the same period.

Many activities are currently not allowed or are less popular due to social distancing. People can no longer visit each other at home as they used to, sport is more difficult and impossible for many indoors, while advice to stay away from people has kept the public away from museums, cinemas and theaters.

A Tory MP who attended the briefing said, “It is clear that the data to justify further hospitality action is incredibly thin. It's so weak that they can't even publish it. "

There are concerns that the tiny record could lead to the closure of more than 7,000 pubs in the north of England alone.

But Economy Minister Nadhim Zahawi defended the decision today, telling LBC, "I used to work in the service industry and I can tell you that 98 companies or 100 companies are actually a fairly representative sample of company surveys."

A Tory MP from a Red Wall seat told The Telegraph, “It was clear to everyone that they cobbled together this data as an afterthought to justify pub closings.

“ Given what we know from the official NHS numbers, why are they citing data from a tiny poll that was conducted in America? It's just meaningless. & # 39;

A Labor MP in a seat in the north said: “We have all asked the government to provide us with the evidence of curfews and pub closings, and this is the best they can come up with. It's pretty amazing, and clearly an attempt to soften us up for bad news coming next week. & # 39;

Last night, the British Beer and Pub Association warned the government that the data was not good enough to warrant pub closings.

An expert suggested that 7,000 venues in the north would have to close. However, Downing Street denied that any lockdown decisions had been made.

A Tory MP who attended the briefing said, “It is clear that the data to justify further hospitality action is incredibly thin. It's so weak that they can't even publish it. & # 39;

Professor Whitty also appeared to be pointing out that the national curfew, introduced last month for pubs, bars and restaurants at 10 p.m., was based on nothing more than the fact that other countries had imposed it.

Last night, politicians from the north lined up to condemn the prime minister for the "ruthless" plan to close all pubs and restaurants in the hardest hit areas.

Andy Burnham, the Labor Mayor of Greater Manchester, told BBC Radio 4's World At One: "I will no longer take it when they put things on the north of England that really harm people's lives."

And at Question Time, he slammed the government for not consulting regional leaders about changes in restrictions.

He added, "I will do everything I can to support the people or else they will face real trouble this winter and we will see businesses fail."

Economy Minister Nadhim Zahawi has defended the government's leaked analysis

Economy Minister Nadhim Zahawi has defended the government's leaked analysis

And Emma McClarkin of the British Beer and Pub Association said, “We have yet to see the hard evidence in England that blanket pub bans with strict adherence to government guidelines will significantly stop the spread of the virus. & # 39;

But Ben Bradley, Tory MP from Mansfield, who answered the call, said, “We have been talking about the Northwest and Northeast in particular, where in three weeks we have been talking about hospital stays higher than the original summit. & # 39;

Meanwhile, Minister for Qualifications and Apprenticeships Gillian Keegan said the UK was in "an incredibly grave situation".

She said the government needs to act to contain the spike in coronavirus cases, telling the BBC, "This is serious – it's getting out of control and we have to do something to get it back under control."

But she added, "We definitely have to work on the ground and we definitely have to make sure the communication is much clearer."

Steve Rotheram, Liverpool City Region Mayor, told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "Quite simply, the north shouldn't be a petri dish for central government experiments."

It came as No10 faced a concerted backlash from local leaders and MPs over plans to place even stricter restrictions on millions of people in the north from next week.

Sir Keir Starmer accused Boris Johnson of causing "confusion, chaos and injustice" by revealing the exact measures that will be announced next week while still being discussed.

Sir Keir Starmer also wrote in The Telegraph that people are facing a "weekend of uncertainty" due to the delay in announcing the new three-tier system.

Community Secretary Robert Jenrick almost confirmed yesterday that action was on the way.

"It is correct to say that the number of cases is rising rapidly in the northwest and northeast, as well as in a number of cities, particularly in the Midlands like Nottingham, and this is a serious situation," he said.

"We are currently considering what steps to take, apparently under the advice of our scientific and medical advisors, and a decision will be made shortly."

PHE data released today showed that infected people were most likely to come into contact with the family they live with, followed by friends who visited and people during their leisure time - including pubs and restaurants

PHE data released today showed that infected people were most likely to come into contact with the family they live with, followed by friends who visited and people during their leisure time – including pubs and restaurants

In Liverpool, many students and young people gathered in close proximity to each other despite fears of increasing infections

In Liverpool, many students and young people gathered in close proximity to each other despite fears of increasing infections

Sir Keir Starmer accused Boris Johnson of causing "confusion, chaos and injustice" by revealing the exact measures that will be announced next week while still being discussed. Pictured: revelers in Newcastle

Sir Keir Starmer accused Boris Johnson of causing "confusion, chaos and injustice" by revealing the exact measures that will be announced next week while still being discussed. Pictured: revelers in Newcastle

The document that spilled the beans

The controversial data cited by Professor Whitty is based on an exercise to improve contact tracing, according to the Department of Health.

It asks people who they met – and where they met them. However, it is based on a very small sample.

If two infected people tell the tracers that they have been to a venue in the past week, it will be considered an indication, but not evidence, that the virus may have been transmitted between them.

But they didn't even have to be there at the same time.

The data shows there have been 98 cases where two or more people told contact tracers they'd been to the same pub.

Another 67 cases related to people who were in the same café or restaurant.

He added that it was "generally understandable" that the longer people were together in pubs, the higher the risk of infection, as he supported the 10pm curfew.

Last night, it also found that Public Health England data was based on a very small sample size.

It was derived from contact tracing data covering only 98 pubs and 67 cafes and restaurants.

A PHE spokesman said every case reported related to two separate Covid-positive patients who had been in the same location for the past week.

However, the data cannot say whether they discovered the virus in the same location.

A health ministry spokesman said the "improved" contract tracking suggested the infection site is at a hotel.

The dossier submitted by Chris Whitty contained a Cabinet Office document marked "officially sensitive" referring to a July report from the US Centers for Disease Control.

The study found that of the 154 people who tested positive, about twice as often had eaten in a restaurant in the last two weeks before symptoms appeared.

Last night, a government spokesman admitted that the "early analysis" did not provide evidence of the transmission.

"We are seeing coronavirus cases increase across the country, with particularly rapid growth in the northeast and northwest," he said.

"We are constantly monitoring the data and considering a number of options to suppress the virus, protect communities and save lives."