The government has been creating policy without evidence, and then trying to “rapidly retrofit” evidence to support it, in the face of growing opposition from its own backbenches, MCA’s The Conversation has heard.

UK Hospitality CEO Kate Nicholls said the communications over the three-tier English coronavirus restrictions was another area where messaging had been “incredibly badly handled”.

Nicholls said despite the lack of evidence pointing to hospitality as a major source of transmission, it was now more important to focus on what the government was doing to support the sector.

She said: “It there was something intrinsic about hospitality venues which meant they were inherently more likely to act as a super spreader event, then you would have seen vast numbers of our staff off with covid over the course of the 14 weeks.

“We haven’t had that, which suggests the evidence isn’t there, or what evidence there is is not substantial enough to back up devastating and decimating an entire industry and jeopardising 3.2 million jobs.”

She added: “The issue for me is not if the evidence is there or not, but if the support is there. Is the government going to support an industry that will generate growth for the future, or are they going to cause it to fail?”

Also speaking at the virtual event, Shereen Ritchie, MD of Leon UK, agreed that the messaging had created a “huge amount of confusion”.

“It’s been really challenging to deal with what have been some really nebulous guidance and policies that we’re meant to follow,” she said.

“The questions you then receive from team members, managers, colleagues, because everyone is obviously very concerned for their wellbeing, and it’s very hard as a leader to have the answers, because we have no idea of what’s going on ourselves.

“We need more stable guidance and not changing messages and this worry not knowing what you’re going to wake up to the next day.

Ashton Crosby, MD of Wasabi backer Capdesia, said the lack of clarity and uncertainty made investment plans extremely difficult.

“Any time you make an investment you’re making a bet on the future,” he said.

“You never get it perfect, but you wouldn’t have as much variability historically. Whereas now, this uncertainty kills your ability to forecast sales, which then influences labour supply chain wastage and so on and so forth.

“There’s also a lack of clarity over why these policies are in place, with the 10pm curfew for example.

“I’m not sure why hospitality operators are being held accountable for that behaviour, so the linking of the cases to the food and beverage industry, I think is very unfair.”