Owner of four Brighton and Hove pubs urges politicians to rethink covid lockdown strategy

Posted On 31 Dec 2020 at 11:13 am

The owner of four pubs in Brighton and Hove has urged politicians to rethink the government’s coronavirus lockdown strategy in light of Sweden’s experience.

The pub company JD Wetherspoon, founded by chairman Tim Martin, spoke out after the latest coronavirus restrictions were announced, forcing the pub trade to shut up shop at short notice again.

Mr Martin is one of a number of leading business figures, such as Brighton Palace Pier owner Luke Johnson, who believe that the harms caused by the lockdown approach outweigh the benefits.

And several have criticised the apocalyptic forecasts of Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, to persuade many western governments to pursue a lockdown strategy, saying that the Swedish experience discredits his projections.

Professor Ferguson resigned from the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) after breaking the lockdown rules.

Mr Martin has said that the purpose of the initial lockdown was to buy time to protect the NHS and set up an effective test, track and trace system.

He did not compare the Swedish experience with those of neighbouring countries where the death rates were lower and the rules were closer to Britain’s.

It has, though, been suggested that countries such as Denmark benefited from being quicker to put in place test and trace systems among their significantly smaller populations.

Wetherspoon, which owns pubs in North Street, West Street and the Marina, in Brighton, as well as George Street, in Hove, called on politicians and the public to “reconsider the evidence regarding lockdowns”.

It said: “Sweden, which did not impose a lockdown, has had fewer covid-19 fatalities per capita in recent weeks than the UK.

“In the week ending (Monday) 21 December, according to the respected Worldometer website, there were 215 fatalities in Sweden, compared with 3,214 in the UK.

“Adjusting the Swedish fatality rate for population (the UK population is about 6.8 times larger), the UK fatality rate per capita is over double Sweden’s.

“From 1 November, just before the second UK lockdown, until (Monday) 21 December, Worldometer records 2,244 fatalities in Sweden, compared with 21,061 in the UK.

“Adjusting the Swedish fatality rate for population, it is approximately 27 per cent less than the UK’s.

“As Worldometer also reports, Sweden has had 806 fatalities per million, compared to 979 for the UK since the start of the pandemic.

Tim Martin

“Sweden’s ‘all-cause’ fatality rate for 2020 is approximately the same as four out of the last five years. The UK’s ‘all-cause’ fatality rate in 2020 is slightly higher than recent years.

“There does not appear to be a relationship between population density and covid-19 outcomes.

“Singapore and Taiwan have densely populated countries with low mortality, whereas France and the US are much less densely populated than the UK, but have similar covid-19 outcomes.”

Mr Martin said: “The statistical comparison between the UK and Sweden is freely available on Worldometer but often seems to be ignored or misreported.

“A particular worry is that the UK is relying on a lockdown strategy, championed by Neil Ferguson, Imperial College and SAGE.

“Yet the Imperial College model forecast around 88,000 fatalities for Sweden, if they did not lock down, but the outcome has been less than 10 per cent of this number.

“Given the huge scale of job losses in the UK, especially in the hospitality industry, and the widely reported ‘collateral damage’ to health, there should be a proper debate on this subject, rather than reliance on politicised government propaganda and statistics.”

  1. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    I suspect that people are weary of Mr. Martin’s saloon-bar pronouncements. Pubs will re-open in due course. Meanwhile, there is joy to be found in visits to P.G. Wodehouse’s Angler’s Rest.

  2. John Reply

    Some of us are thirsty for a serving of common sense amidst the hysteria. For that reason, Tim Martin’s comments are welcome. For all Boris Johnson’s talk of following the science, he’s plumped for the discredited and dodgy Professor of Doom, who has been proved wrong time and time again, rather than rely on more measured experts with far better track records like Sunetra Gupta from Oxford. Yes, Covid-19 is a debilitating and life-threatening respiratory virus, as is influenza. And the annual death toll from influenza was comparable until vaccinations started, predominantly affecting the same older age groups. No Government, though, has panicked on this scale before. The PM should have genuinely levelled with the public about the novel coronavirus and then trusted people to behave sensibly as in Sweden and Taiwan. We know that some wouldn’t, but many more of us are perfectly capable of doing what we need to so that we can keep ourselves and our families safe.

    • ben Reply

      What a crock of s**t.

      Sweden’s King said Swedens lockdown policy has failed causing unnecessary suffering, as reported in the oh so holy paper of the Tories and Brexiteers – The Daily Mail.

      https://www. dailymail. co. uk/news/article-9063679/Swedens-king-says-countrys-no-lockdown-coronavirus-approach-failed.html

  3. Nathan Adler Reply

    Lockdown’s don’t work they simply hit the pause button and the inevitable happens after the lockdown ends, (and that is ever obvious as we enter a third lockdown and we are back where we were in April).

    • Hove Guy Reply

      What utter rubbish! The first lockdown did work. Just look at the graphs that appear almost daily on our TV screens, The big mistake that Boris made was to start it too late, and stop it too early. He sold out to the other prophets of Doom, who told us that the economy was more important than the lives of others, and immediatley set the pandemic back in motion, leading to thousands more dying. And it is the selfish and and irresponsible idiots who are pushing the country into an even higher peak in the number of infections.

  4. Sam Mendes Reply

    Tim Martin is probably more concerned about losing money than he is about the health of the people.

  5. Spoons fan Reply

    You may be right Sam, but unlike sneering newspapers like The Guardian, which makes big losses and shelters its cash in a tax-efficient trust, Wetherspoons pays a huge amount in UK taxes. The total in 2018 was just short of £730m, dwarfing their profits. That’s money that goes towards running the NHS, paying for schools and universities, and funding our roads and railways.
    Besides, even the World Health Organisation has said Governments should stop using lockdowns as a primary means of trying contain the Covid pandemic. Lockdowns tend to delay infection, they don’t prevent it. And they cause poverty, which is a huge killer worldwide.

    • bob Reply

      Hahaha, you mean the same Tim Martin that was complaining about having to pay his workers more with the rise in the minimum wage, and having to pay business rates, and VAT on food sales, that Tim Martin?

      As for the claims that Wetherspoons pay their taxes, NO, the customers PAY the VAT and alcohol duty on the drinks when they buy them, Wetherspoons just passes on THEIR payments as required of all pubs.

      Also the PAYE element of staff costs are paid for by, wait for it, the employees from THEIR salaries.

      Martin does as much as he possibly can to legally avoid taxation, like all other businesses, he is no white knight in shining armour.

      The Guardian is owned by a limited company called “Scott Trust limited”, just like the Daily Mail is owned by the “Daily Mail and General Trust Limited”.

  6. Sheran Reply

    How stupid people have to be? A complete lockdown pauses the virus and allows the NHS to clear beds, ready for the next surge of iduots that ignore the tiers, pass the virus around and chaos while only thinking of themselves. The country needs another complete lockdown while the vaccine is given. Stop whinging. I can just here ancestors saying, ah yes we should have stopped fighting in the war so we can enjoy ourselves. Get a bloody grip. This is the 21st century world war. Cope with it.

  7. Peter Ward Reply

    The situation we are in is the result of moron Johnson not doing the correct thing right at the start. If you live on an island and pandemic is spreading on the mainland the obvious thing to do is slam the shutters down on all ports and airports and not let anybody in until they have been tested. BJ is too stupid to have done that so we had (and still have) anybody coming in without checks.
    I voted conservative at the last election but my vote will not be tory next time.

    • Hove Guy Reply

      Boris Johnson is directly to blame for thousands of deaths in this country. Hopefully, when this is all over, there should be an enquiry into how his total incompetence has allowed this disaster to escalate. I, too will definitely not be voting Tory in the next election. Meanwhile, may we please have more sensible, heavy fines for those idiots deliberately and selfishly breaking the rules?

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