As England emerges from a second lockdown and businesses adapt to the new tier system, Oakman Inns CEO Dermot King discusses how the government is forcing the hospitality sector to big up the tab.

I have friends who are qualified practitioners in homeopathy. Apparently, there is a professional body that issues qualifications and they quote people with the title Doctor or Professor in their name. It all seems very plausible, and they swear by a treatment for a condition that has produced results which could only have happened due to the course they prescribed because other medical treatments hadn’t worked on their own.

Although there was no direct proof, the cause and effect was commonsensical. I pointed out that, as an example, there is a statistical correlation between sunburn and ice cream sales, but that doesn’t mean that one causes the other. There is a difference between big data and big insight.

There is no greater supporter of the aims of the effort to protect the most vulnerable of society than the pubs, restaurants, hotels and holiday operators in the hospitality sector. Remember, that this sector employs about 10 per cent of the working population in the country and in a normal year is the fourth or fifth largest export earner, depending on which measure you choose. Matt Hancock’s new winter covid programme of three tiers, however, is another devastating blow to the hospitality industry.

Some 38,000 businesses in tier three, employing over half a million people, will be forced to close. And whilst up to 2,000 people can sing, shout and scream at a sporting event (and good luck to them) in tier two, more than 6 people can’t sit down in a restaurant and enjoy a meal served to their table.

At Oakman Inns, in the four months from July to October, we served some 1.6 million customers across our estate and have had 10 reported cases of the virus. That’s 0.6 cases per 100,000 people over four months. Furthermore, not one employee has contracted covid-19 from a customer at work. The only two cases we experienced were of young team who were celebrating A-level results at a party with friends. We are a safe business and that is because of all the safety measures we introduced into our operation to protect our team and customers.

I find it staggering that the political and medical strategists in the higher reaches of Government have used hospitality as a punchbag. Despite Public Health England acknowledging that hospitality venues account for between 3 and 5 per cent of covid transmissions, the Government consistently makes businesses in that sector pick up the tab for the failure in care homes, schools and hospitals where transmission is happening on a greater scale.

And when Government is challenged to produce the evidence that damns the industry, we are pointed to international studies conducted in settings with no covid mitigation measures or to the fact the increased risk is just commonsensical. The data doesn’t exist.

The Government should employ the effort to evaluate the risk of every business individually, no matter what industry. It should allow safe businesses to operate and unsafe businesses to improve. That’s the big insight we need.