Wetherspoon says pubs 'low risk' as 66 staff test positive for coronavirus

14 September 2020, 11:28 | Updated: 14 September 2020, 11:39

Dozens of Wetherspoon staff have tested positive for coronavirus
Dozens of Wetherspoon staff have tested positive for coronavirus. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

JD Wetherspoon has insisted its pubs are safe after 66 workers tested positive for coronavirus. 

The pub chain, which employs more than 41,500 people, confirmed the infections at 40 pubs over the past ten weeks. 

It said most of the Covid-19 infections were asymptomatic, and 28 of the employees affected have returned to work after self-isolating.

The hospitality giant’s boss Tim Martin stressed that bars were “low risk” environments for transmission of the virus, as he revealed custom has plummeted since Boris Johnson announced the “rule of six” social gatherings ban last week. 

"The situation with regard to pubs has  been widely misunderstood," he said. 

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"Trade was very quiet over the weekend, as the public weighed up the evidence about the alleged dangers of going out - Wetherspoon sales were 22.5% below the equivalent Saturday last year," he went on.

"It is clearly not the case that pubs are ‘dangerous places to be’.

"There have been more positive cases at one farm in Hereford than at all Wetherspoon pubs- and over four times as many at one sandwich-making facility in Northampton.”

He added: “Although it is clearly possible for Covid-19 infections to take place in pubs and shops, the evidence indicates that the risk is low, provided social distancing and hygiene rules are followed, and common sense is used.”

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Of JD Wetherspoon’s 811 pubs, since 10 July, 40 pubs have reported one Covid-19 case and six pubs had two cases. A further two pubs saw three infections and two sites had four cases. 

The firm said approximately 32 million customer visits have been made to its pubs over the past ten weeks, and said it had invested £15 million in extensive social distancing and hygiene measures.