A 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants introduced to stop the spread of Covid-19 could be “counterproductive”, a Reading microbiology professor has warned.

The warning comes as Reading East MP Matt Rodda joined growing calls across England for an “urgent review” of the new coronavirus rule.

Since the nationwide curfew was introduced on Thursday (September 24), there have been reports across the country of packed crowds on city and town centre streets, outside off-licences and at train stations.

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And Mr Rodda, calling for an "urgent review", said he would like to see "what evidence the government has to show the policy is helping to reduce the spread of the virus".

Dr Simon Clarke, associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, described the the scenes across the country as”quite unsurprising” and “concerning”.

He said: “Forcing pubs and restaurants to close simultaneously at 10pm pushes people out onto the street and public transport, potentially condensing crowds together.

“Given the shorter opening hours, it is understandable that many people seem to be staying out right up until closing time.

“Without regulated and licensed premises to go to, it is also a concern if people are instead turning to informal gatherings in the streets, where there is less control of behaviour, both in terms of social distancing and general nuisance.

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“Although this activity is being done outside, the large numbers of people and the risky behaviour such as singing or perhaps sharing drinks, increases the risk of transmission.

“If this is what is happening, curfews will end up being counterproductive as a mechanism to break transmission.

“The virus doesn’t care what time it is.

“Transmission will occur from infected people if they are close enough to others to spread droplets, at 10pm, 10am or any time in between.

“If the point of the curfew was to encourage people not to go crazy in late-night venues, that’s fine, but if it is encouraging 1970s-style pub closing time mauls, the virus could say thank you very much.”