In a statement published on Monday (14 September), Wetherspoon reported an estimated 32 million visitors to its 861 establishments in the 10 weeks beginning 4 July. Positive cases had been recorded in 50 of those pubs.
According to Wetherspoons, the majority of the cases were “mild or asymptomatic”, and 28 of the 66 employees have now returned to work following a period of isolation.
Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin insisted: “The situation with regard to pubs has been widely misunderstood.”
He criticised remarks that pubs are “dangerous places to be”, claiming that the press were fuelling “bad decisions built on false presumptions”.
He said: “In fact, 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.
“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.”
Martin went on to cite Swedish epidemiologist, Johan Giesecke, arguing that his “strong scientific evidence” made clear that pubs’ practices of handwashing and social distancing were effective.
He added: “In this connection, Wetherspoon has invested around £15m on comprehensive social distancing and hygiene measures. These include reducing capacity, spacing out tables, the installation of screens between tables and around tills, and an average of ten hand sanitisers per pub.”
Martin emphasised the financial risk associated with any future pub closures.
He said: “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.”