Downing Street has rejected calls for a nationwide ban on shops selling alcohol after 9pm.
Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, warned on Monday the new 10pm curfew on bars was “doing more harm than good” as people were now holding house parties once the pubs shut, risking a greater spread of coronavirus.
He told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme something needed to be done to “prevent the rush to shops once the pubs have closed”.
“I received reports that the supermarkets were absolutely packed out to the rafters with people gathering,” the Labour mayor said.
But asked if the government would consider a 9pm ban on takeaway alcohol, Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said: “There are already existing rules in relation to licensing.
“Plus there is a requirement for all shops to ensure that any sale of items including alcoholic drinks is done in a Covid-secure way.
“In terms of what people are doing elsewhere, the rule of six is in force in terms of meetings among households.”
And the PM’s spokesperson also rejected calls for the 10pm curfew itself to be ditched.
“The decision to reduce time to 10pm was based on the fact it had been in operation in the local lockdown areas and had been considered to strike the right balance,” they said.
No.10 also said it was too early to tell whether the recently introduced “rule of six” had failed to suppress a rise in infections.
“I don’t think we’re in a position to be able to say that. I think it takes a minimum of two weeks to be able to start to see the impact of measures which we have introduced,” the spokesperson said.
But they did not rule out introducing further restrictions to limit the spread, including imposing a two-week “circuit break” and a ban on social mixing.
It comes as parliament abandoned plans to allow alcohol to be served after 10pm in its bars and restaurants.
Infectious disease modelling expert professor Graham Medley said on Saturday he did not recall the 10pm curfew being discussed by the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).
But Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, on Sunday told the Andrew Marr Show there was “definitely science” behind the policy.
Following photographs and film of large crowds gathering in city centres after closing time, professor Robert Dingwall, a sociologist who also advises the government, said it was another example of “patrician policymaking”.
“When were any of those involved in making this decision last in a city centre pub at closing time? The disdain for the night-time economy reflects the puritan streak in public health that has marked so many interventions,” he said.
“Anyone with a basic knowledge of sociology, anthropology, socio-legal studies or criminology would have predicted the transport chaos that Andy Burnham has described – and the street parties that we have seen elsewhere.”
John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation, said police had difficulty dispersing large crowds that gathered with only limited numbers of officers available.
“You might only have one or two people in a busy high street at 10pm when hundreds and hundreds of people are coming out on to the streets,” he told Today.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.