The 64-year-old boss of pub chain Wetherspoons has said that he would take the opportunity to catch the coronavirus under the right conditions, as he argued that his pubs should stay open.
Chairman Tim Martin, who describes himself as an ex-heavy smoker with two major operations under his belt, said he would take his chances with the deadly disease.
“If someone offered me the opportunity now to have it under supervised conditions, I think I’d probably take it because your chances are very, very good,” he told reporters on a call on Friday.
People with underlying conditions and the elderly have been warned by the Government to stay inside as much as possible as they are at the biggest risk of dying.
Data from Italy, which has had the most deaths from the disease, shows that those who died had on average 2.7 underlying conditions each, and the average age is around 80.
Mr Martin also compared his chain of pubs to Parliament, where MPs are still sitting, though only those with questions were allowed into Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.
“Our main desire is that pubs should remain open, rather in the way that Parliament has remained open,” he said.
“You’d be aghast if every MP was sitting next to every other MP, but it’s right that it should stay open on a sensible basis.”
He said that “reasonable social distancing” would happen automatically in Wetherspoons as the number of punters drop.
Mr Martin also said that he could introduce rules which prevent people from standing at the bar, and getting staff to clean down the surfaces twice an hour.
Mr Martin also said that one of his pubs had introduced a regulars-only policy. This would not be possible to roll-out to all Wetherspoons outlets, but it is “one of a variety of moves” available to management.
“Closure is much more draconian, and we don’t think that it brings health benefits, and it certainly doesn’t bring economic benefits,” he added.
Government advice, which it received from healthcare experts, is to stay away from pubs and restaurants to limit the spread of the disease.