Published: 13:09, 22 September 2020
| Updated: 19:19, 22 September 2020
The boss of one of the country's biggest pub operators says the government's 10pm curfew rule is a "pointless" step which will ruin months of hard recovery work.
Business quite simply won't survive, the stark warning issued by landlords who spoke to KMTV
He is among the many critics to have hit out at the government's plan to order pubs, bars and restaurants to close by 10pm every night from Thursday.
Mr Neame fears it will result in more people socialising in unregulated areas.
"It's a bad decision for public health and it's a bad decision for the economy," he said.
"There is no evidence pubs are the cause of the infection. They are one of the safest environments we have at this time.
"Do we really want people young people dispersing onto the streets at night and moving to unregulated environments?
"This curfew is pandering to the typical myth that people in pubs at 10pm have lost control of their senses and drunk too much - it's just not the case.
"Most people do not go to the pub to get drunk, they go to socialise. And they do so in a safe, controlled manner.
"We fought tooth and nail to get on a recovery path and now the industry is being pushed back to an unviable level again which will result in job losses and closures.
"Hospitality is being thrown under the bus because the government's other measures like testing and the track and trace app don't work."
The new measures come after the government’s chief scientific and medical advisers painted a grim picture of how 200 or more people in the UK could die each day by mid-November if the current rate of infection is not halted.
But Mr Neame believes the potential risks need to be weighed up.
"There will be a loss in consumer confidence which the industry has fought so hard to recover," he said.
"It's completely incoherent to keep schools and workplaces open but also try to progressively shut down our part of the economy.
"You either lock us all down until there is a vaccine and send the economy back to the dark ages, or you allow the economy to continue on the path it's been taking with a normal degree of risk.
"We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that through this crisis, more people have died from flue and pneumonia than have died of Covid.
"We have to determine as a society what is a proportionate risk we are prepared to take in our lives rather than destroying the fundamentals of our society and economy."