Pubs and restaurants caused less than three per cent of infections in the week before curfew was announced, Public Health England (PHE) surveillance shows, as the new 10pm cut-off led to chaotic scenes over the weekend.
Weekly data from PHE showed that schools and care homes were largely responsible for the new cases, accounting for more than two thirds of all positive tests.
In contrast, just 22 cases out of 772, were caused by the hospitality industry in the week up to September 20.
It came as scientists questioned the legitimacy of the curfew, and large crowds gathered in cities across Britain after they were asked to leave premises at 10pm.
Footage and photos shot in Liverpool City Centre showed spontaneous crowds gathering outside off-licences and taking to the streets to socialise, while the City’s mayor Joe Anderson claimed the new restrictions were spreading the virus.
Sacha Lord, night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, described the curfew as ‘shambolic’ and ‘ill-thought-out’, warning it had led to overcrowding on public transport and house parties.
“If we had been consulted, we could have found ways to prevent this,” he told the Telegraph.
“I really hope the Government does a U-turn because it's going to escalate. It’s too big an issue to police.”
Liverpool Police confirmed it had issued a number of fixed penalty notices at house parties and events across Merseyside. Partying in the streets was also spotted at Piccadilly Circus, London and in Leeds.
A member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M) which feeds into the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), also warned there was no scientific basis for new restrictions.
Professor Mark Woolhhouse said he was unaware of any detailed modelling to underpin the new 'rule of six' and 10pm pub curfew.
Asked about the Government’s latest interventions on the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme, he said that modelling did not offer the “sort of granularity” necessary to “explore in detail different closing times of pubs or even different versions of the 'rule of six' we have, the differences between indoor and outdoor transmission.
"So these sorts of things have to be judgment calls based on the public health evidence rather than the modelling.”
On wider lockdown restrictions, he continued: “There isn’t a proven scientific basis for any of this. When we introduced lockdown in the first instance that was an unproven intervention.
"By the time we introduced it in the UK on March 23, only one city in the world, Wuhan, had actually demonstrated it was possible to turn this epidemic around using lockdown.
“So because this is a new challenge we’re having to use interventions that we’ve never tried before. All of this has very much been ad hoc interventions that we’re learning as we go.”
Ministers were preparing to enforce a social lockdown on swathes of the North and potentially in London, which would see households banned from mixing indoors indefinitely. Bars, pubs and restaurants would also be ordered to shut, initially for two weeks, according to The Times.
The new curbs were among the options considered by the Government last week, but the Cabinet's Covid-19 strategy committee opted instead to introduce the 10pm curfew.
Prof Sunetra Gupta, a leading theoretical epidemiologist at the University of Oxford, also urged ministers to adopt an “age-stratified” approach which entailed more targeted measures to protect the vulnerable and elderly.
Describing lockdown as “destructive”, Prof Gupta told Sky News: “I think an efficient system would be to protect the vulnerable and finding a way for people in care homes to not be affected so we can obviously go out and test people coming into care homes or if we visit someone else, to really take those precautions.”
However Prof Steven Riley of Imperial College London, argued that a strategy focussed on the elderly would involve a “large proportion” of the population shielding, pointing out that 18 per cent of the UK population was aged over 65.
He also dismissed suggestions that an alternative approach would allow people to return to normality quicker, adding: “If we are going to adopt an entirely liberal approach and let the virus decide our social structure, it’s not going to be a very rapid thing, it’s going to last a long time.”