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Tue 17th Mar 2020 - Wetherspoon boss says government approach wrong
Wetherspoon boss says government approach wrong: JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has criticised the government’s approach to coronavirus. He said: “I believe the government will make a tactical error in resorting to de facto ‘lockdown’. The Dutch position of frankly admitting that most people will get the virus, while protecting the elderly and sick, thereby building up group immunity, is the best path for the UK. As scientists have said lockdown for twelve weeks results in a further breakout of infections in July. The difference in keeping the hospitality industry open, even with reduced sales, is colossal. The industry contributes £120 billion a year of tax and six million jobs. Wetherspoon alone contributes £2m a DAY of tax. Lockdown delays the inevitable and destroys the tax base at the same time, which will cripple the NHS and the economy. The prime minister should show Dutch courage and follow the example of their prime minister Mark Rutte – and avoid taking French leave of his senses by following the lockdown example of perfidious Emmanuel Macron. The Dutch approach has the additional advantage of being in tune with the robust instincts of the nation. This is evidenced by Wetherspoon sales which have been positive in the last few weeks in spite of storms and health scares. The board continues to plan partially mitigating actions. The company will announce its interim results on 20 March, when a further update will be provided.” Martin added: “Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte warned in a televised address to the nation that most residents would get coronavirus, but he ruled out a full lockdown like other European countries. Rutte says his government wants to build ‘group immunity’ while waiting for a vaccine, by letting the least vulnerable people catch the virus while protecting the elderly and sick. This could take ‘months, or even longer’. Prof Azra Ghani added that the modelling suggests that even if the government waited until July to ease new restrictions – more than three months – it could result in cases increasing again. We haven’t found any way, at least in our understanding of this so far, that we can ever release these [restrictions] unless some other intervention occurs. Are we then in a permanent state of outbreak?, she was asked. ‘That’s our current understanding’, she said. The briefing took place immediately after the prime minster spoke. Prof Ghani was joined by Prof Neil Fergusson, who heads the team at Imperial and advises Number Ten. Britain’s hospitality industry contributes more than £120bn a year to the economy and is worth more than the automotive, pharmaceuticals and aeronautics industries combined. More than 3.2 million people work in pubs, restaurants and other outlets, making it the third-largest sector for employment. A further 2.8 million work in the wider supply chain.”

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