KEEPING pubs and restaurants open can reduce the number of coronavirus cases, a bombshell report has revealed.
Instead scientists concluded keeping people out of boozers has just shifted the transmission of Covid-19 into domestic settings.
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The research was carried out by the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment and leaked the country's economy ministry.
They warned that may even be making the situation worse because people aren't subject to strict social distancing measures at home.
Their report says: "Visiting the catering industry seems to have moved to the more unsafe home situation in recent months.
"Infections cannot be linked to a sector such as the catering industry, but to the occurrence of unsafe contact moments."
Dutch boffins tracked the evolution of the R-rate, which estimates how many others each person with the virus is infecting on average.
When the Netherlands shut its bars and restaurants on October 14 it was measured at 1.08, according to the paper leaked to De Standaard.
At first the rate fell to 0.82 but by November 13, with all hospitality still shut, it was back up at 1.04.
The scientists concluded: "This suggests that the influence of the catering industry on the R-value is very small, and the decrease and increase since October 14 must be explained differently."
'UNSAFE HOME VISITS'
Leaked to news service RTL Nieuws, the report says: "Reopening the controlled environment of eateries and restaurants will significantly limit unsafe home visits.
"By means of strict conditions and protocols, reopening eateries will not have a negative effect on the R value.
"The above argument even shows that it is conceivable that the R value will decrease."
RTL Nieuws reported: "The influence of the hospitality industry on the R number is very small, and the increase and decrease since October 14 must be explained differently."
Dutch PM Mark Rutte said despite the revelations he wouldn't be reopening bars and restaurants as hoped as "things are really not going well".
It comes as thousands more pubs and restaurants will be forced to close as London, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire are pushed into Tier 3 restrictions from tomorrow.
Yet the most recent figures from Public Health England, from the week November 30 and December 6, show that just four out of 829 Covid outbreaks were linked to the hospitality sector.
However, this data is only inclusive of five days where pubs and restaurants were allowed to reopen after the national shutdown.
So, looking back to the report from the week before the country was plunged into another lockdown, PHE says that the hospitality sector was linked to just 24 out of 1,110 Covid outbreaks.
By comparison, in the same week, there were 307 outbreaks at care homes, 282 in workplace settings and 210 in schools.
PHE has been recording the number of acute respiratory infection (ARI) incidents – including Covid-19, influenza and other seasonal respiratory viruses – by institution since July 2.
It is important to note the PHE data does not encompass all outbreaks, or infections – just those reported to them.
Another key thing to note is each outbreak can include multiple cases where people are infected, and this data does not account for that.
It comes as London, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire will move into Tier 3 tomorrow.
Almost 10.8 million people – or 61 per cent of England's population – will now be under the toughest restrictions.
It will have a devastating impact on the capital's nightlife, with theatres forced to shut and pubs and restaurants closed apart from takeaway and delivery services.
Warnings to avoid travel to Tier 3 areas will also deprive some of the UK's busiest shopping centres of trade at a crucial time of year.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock acknowledged the measures would be a "blow" to people and businesses as he addressed a Downing Street press conference last night.
But he said: "We know from experience that the best thing to do in the face of this virus is to act fast, not to wait to see its growth continue – and we do not rule out further action.
"This rise in transmission, as well as this new variant of Covid. should be a warning to us all that even after such a difficult year, we must stay vigilant."
Last week, the country's top scientist admitted there was "no hard evidence" that a 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants stops Covid spreading.
Sir Patrick Vallance, England's Chief Scientific Adviser said that when people are in booze-fuelled locations the risk of spread did increase.
But he was unable to say that any particular time limits were helpful.
The 10pm curfew was brought in in September as part of new national measures to try and prevent another lockdown.
People across the UK have been banned from ordering food or drink after 10pm to stop the spread of the virus.
But the hated curfew was pushed back after the Tiers system came back in at the start of December.
People can now stay until 11pm to finish up their drinks and head off, to avoid crowds of people all leaving at once.
But pubs in Tier 2 now can only serve booze alongside food – and people from different households have to sit outside.
Speaking to MPs on the Commons science committee, Sir Patrick was asked if there is specific modelling to show whether Covid-secure measures pubs, bars and restaurants have taken in the UK have made a difference to infection rates.
He replied: “There’s no really hard evidence on curfew times…it's not something you can model with a degree of accuracy and say, a particular time will give you a particular result."
However, pubs have warned they are still at risk of going under as a result of tough restrictions.
Pubs in Tier 3 have to shut altogether, except for doing takeaway food and drink.
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