A total of 66 workers employed by JD Wetherspoon have tested positive for coronavirus, the pub chain has confirmed.
The company has said the infected staff are spread out across 50 of its pubs, although it has not announced which of its sites have been affected.
Is it safe to visit?
Since it reopened on 4 July, Wetherspoons has seen around 32 million people visit its pubs. However, the chain, which employs more than 41,000 people, has said that the vast majority of its 861 locations have recorded no positive cases.
Forty of its sites have reported one worker testing positive for coronavirus, while six pubs have disclosed two. A further two pubs reported three staff testing positive, and another two sites confirmed four workers had the virus.
Wetherspoons has confirmed that 28 of the 66 workers affected have now returned to work after a 14 day self-isolation period. Those who were in close proximity to them have also self-isolated, and all staff were paid in full.
Despite the outbreak of cases, the chain has insisted that its pubs are still safe for customers to visit.
Wetherspoons boss, Tim Martin, has dismissed claims by disease expert Professor Hugh Pennington that pubs are a “dangerous” place to be during the pandemic.
Martin said, "The situation with regard to pubs has been widely misunderstood. It is clearly not the case that pubs are 'dangerous places to be'."
Aberdeen University’s Prof Pennington said last month that pubs are “far, far more dangerous places to be” when discussing sending children back to school.
Social distancing measures
Wetherspoons has invested £15 million in hygiene and social distancing measures at its pubs in an effort to keep customers safe. Signing up to the NHS track and trace system is mandatory at all of its premises.
Mr Martin argued that pubs and shops were safer than home, claiming it is much easier to inadvertently pass on the virus in a house as people are more relaxed and less vigilant.
As of 14 September, stricter rules on social gatherings came into force in England, Wales and Scotland, limiting gatherings both indoors and outdoors to a maximum of just six people.
The new rules now make it illegal for gatherings of more than six people in any setting either indoors, outdoors, at home or a pub or restaurant.
The changes follow a rise in new coronavirus cases, with more than 3,300 positive cases recorded in the UK on Sunday (10 September).
Mr Martin 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."