Hospitality businesses were not significant areas of Covid transmission in 2020 and should be central to reopening plans in 2021, according to new research by CGA, commissioned by UKHospitality.

The Safe Reopening of Hospitality Report said that reports linking the Eat Out to Help Out scheme to a rapid rise in Covid cases were linked to a single, discredited study, and that the sector was well-placed to maintain and enforce Covid-19 mitigation measures.

It called for hospitality to be seen as equally high priority as non-essential retail and next in line after priority sectors such as schools.

The report found that the UK hospitality sector experienced a 54% fall in sales during 2020 – equivalent to £71.8bn in sales lost versus 2019.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive, UKHospitality, said: ““eopening has to be done correctly at the first time of asking. A barrier to that could be the incorrect assumption that our businesses pose a risk to public health.

“We know that hospitality businesses are safe and all the data has shown we are not a significant area of transmission. This report is a vindication of everything we have been saying and a forceful argument for allowing us to reopen and welcome back our customers.”

Nicholls said that hospitality could “lead the economic recovery of the country”.