South London: Covid concerns raised over Wetherspoon pubs

Fears are growing that overcrowding and a relaxed summer socialising will lead to a new spike in Covid-19 cases after a Wetherspoons pub in south London has been completely ignoring social distancing and track and tracing rules.

A recent investigation by the Guardian found that the JD Wetherspoons pub had not been asking customers to provide personal details as required by the Government’s track and tracing system.

In the unnamed pub, which is one of south London’s most popular with young people, customers were allowed to buy drinks directly from the bar and stand within one metre of each other without intervention.

With neighbouring European countries currently seeing a rise in cases, many are concerned that the lack of poor social distancing in pubs mixed with a summer surge of visitors could see the UK follow suit.

Surrey Comet:

Concerns have particularly been raised about the failure to prevent overcrowding and enforce the new rules at the 900-strong chain of pubs run by JD Wetherspoons.

With restrictions on larger venues still in place, some its pubs are likely among the largest social gatherings in the UK at the moment.

Surrey Comet:

In Scotland, a probe by the Daily Record showing several Wetherspoons’ pubs failing to ask for personal details led to the first minister Nicola Sturgeon making it mandatory.

And on A-Level results day last Thursday, one of the firm’s south London venues was reported as packed full of people and still failing to follow Covid-19 venue guidelines, according to the Guardian.

One customer described the pub as “rammed” and staff were unable to cope with the demand for drinks and food.

Wetherspoon said: “The absence of music, for example, and high food sales attract all age groups. In the good weather of recent weeks, there may have been a higher than usual number of young people in pubs generally.

“The company is making strenuous efforts to comply with the regulations around social distancing. Whereas it is not possible to create an entirely risk-free environment, the company will continue to modify and improve its systems in response to Covid-19 and will review the procedures at any individual pub which is the subject of complaint.

Surrey Comet:

According to spokesperson for JD Wetherspoons, managers are asking customers to write down their personal details and post them in ‘ballot boxes’ in the pub, with tables also now equipped with barcodes for customers to scan for the same effect.

He said: “The combined systems have worked well and 616,192 customers have registered using the system across the entire company across the first five days this week (to 14 August), which equates to one registration per £46.21 of sales, bearing in mind only one member of each group needs to register.”

But a number of health experts have spoken about their concerns over pubs, such as Prof Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University, who said it was clear that “venues like pubs can be the centres for outbreaks.”

South London MP Helen Hayes has also spoken out, saying it is “really concerning to hear reports of some pubs which are allowing overcrowding and not insisting on customer contact details for track and trace.”

Surrey Comet | Kingston