If complete closure of the hospitality sector becomes the automatic response to further outbreaks of Coronavirus, “the sector will become un-investable”, Hugh Osmond has warned.

Responding to the government’s draft Covid Inquiry Terms of Reference Consultation, alongside The Warehouse Project founder Sacha Lord and NTIA CEO Michael Kill, the founder of Pizza Express and Punch Taverns criticised it for failing to sufficiently address the Covid measures imposed on the hospitality industry, such as the 10pm curfew and socially distanced covers.

“To fail to address any of the industry-specific measures will mean that the collective impact of the rules […] will not be properly represented or considered by the Inquiry”, the trio wrote as part of their response.

They believe a sector-specific approach is needed, as opposed to a measures-based one, and that the inquiry needs to consider the level of understanding of the industry, and whether those in power took into account the practical considerations for the businesses within it.

The response also references their belief that the measures caused “wide ranging damage”, and lists several examples, including the bankruptcy of many previously viable businesses, unemployment, inequality and the negative impact on the mental health of staff and business owners.

In their view, the most effective way to usefully learn from the Inquiry for future emergencies is to work towards producing a framework to assess future, proposed restrictions prior to their implementation to ascertain whether they are “justifiable, reasonable and necessary”.

Echoing the response from UKHospitality, they have suggested an urgent interim report is needed to assess the economic impact of closing hospitality, and to assist with conducting a costs/benefit analysis

“It cannot become the standard or expected response of the government to entirely shut down the hospitality sector on each occasion that there is a further Covid wave, or in the event of future pandemics or civil emergencies, unless it can be said with a high degree of certainty that the benefits of doing so sufficiently outweigh the costs and harms caused as a result, and that is not currently the case,” the response stated.

“The importance of the timing of such a report is crucial; if the Inquiry waits until the end of its process before producing a report, further waves of Covid may have hit, and it may already be too late for the sector to recover.”

Osmond told MCA said that with hospitality employing more than three million people in the UK, is a huge contributor to the UK’s economy and its communities, and that it was also the main industry targeted by government in its repones to Covid, “it deserves its own specific place in the public inquiry”.

“Above all, it is our belief that, in future, no measures with potentially massively damaging consequences, be they medical (such as vaccines or new drugs), or non-medical (such as school or hospitality closures), should ever be implemented by government without conducting a reasonable prior evaluation of safety, effectiveness, harms, benefits, and other likely consequences,” Osmond explained.

“We believe that this should be an essential recommendation of the Public Inquiry, together perhaps with a framework within which such evaluations can be conducted in the event of a future epidemic”

Earlier this week UKHospitality detailed its response to the inquiry, stating that it had highlighted the need for a structure that separates the public health and economic strands of pandemic decision making, and urged the government to consider treating the two as different areas of focus, with an interim report on the economic impacts.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Currently, the draft terms of reference for the Inquiry are wide-ranging, and we’re concerned they may be grouped too broadly to allow for effective consideration. This runs the risk of key learnings from individual sectors of the economy – such as hospitality – being missed.

She added: “Having an interim fast-track economic analysis, accompanied by robust conclusions and recommendations relatively early in the Inquiry process – whilst we remain in a period where economic and regulatory levers could be used again – would be extremely useful for all concerned.”