Wetherspoons has confirmed 66 of its employees have tested positive for coronavirus across 50 of its pubs.
But boss Tim Martin has insisted his pubs are safe to visit, despite fears of a second outbreak of Covid-19 across the country as infection rates rise.
The chain employs 41,564 people and nearly 900 pubs across the country – 861 of which have reopened after the pandemic. A spokesperson said the ‘vast majority’ of its pubs had recorded no positive tests.
Mr Martin dismissed claims by disease expert Professor Hugh Pennington that pubs are ‘dangerous’ for spreading the virus.
But Mr Martin said the chain has invested around £15 million on social distancing and hygiene measures, including reducing capacity, spacing out tables, installing hand sanitiser dispensers and installing screens between tables and around tills.
‘The data we have shows that the infection rate has risen, mainly due to social interactions, particularly private household gatherings,’ he added.
‘In shops and hospitality venues there are strict measures in place to ensure they are Covid-free, whereas it is much easier to inadvertently pass on the virus in someone’s house, where people are more relaxed and less vigilant.’
A Wetherspoons spokesperson said of the 50 pubs affected, 40 have reported one worker testing positive for the coronavirus and six pubs have disclosed two.
‘Most of the reported cases have been mild or asymptomatic and 28 of the 66 employees have already returned to work, after self-isolating in accordance with medical guidelines,’ the spokesperson added.
Since reopening on July 4, some 32 million people have visited Spoons pubs across the country.
Mr Martin added: ‘If pubs are closed, or restricted so much that they become unprofitable, a great deal of the strenuous effort of the hospitality industry’s 3.2 million employees, currently engaged on upholding hygiene and social distancing standards, will be lost – leaving the public to socialise at home or elsewhere, in unsupervised circumstances.
Beaches, parks and bars packed on last day of fun as ‘rule of six’ begins today
‘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, in line with the views of Professor Giesecke and Councillor Ward.’
It comes as Brits packed out beaches, parks and bars over the weekend before the new ‘rule of six’ comes into force today.
The rule applies across England and replaces the existing ban on participating in gatherings of more than 30 and the current guidance on allowing two households to meet indoors.
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