Nearly a third of coronavirus infections in the UK are occurring in the hospitality sector, according to a government minister.

Business minister Nadhim Zahawi said England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty presented the evidence to MPs.

He told the BBC: “Between restaurants, bars and cafes about 30 per cent of the infections are coming through that hospitality, social interactions, if I can describe it as such.”

Zahawi added: “And it is only right that we take action with the local leadership, with public health local teams, because they know their area best."

He appeared to reference data shown to 149 MPs from the North and Midlands on October 5, which claimed that 32 per cent of coronavirus cases are spread through pub and restaurants.

The PM is expected to close pubs across northern cities

However, it reportedly relied on just 400 samples – including 98 pubs.

Zahawi insisted the sampling was “representative” when quizzed by LBC’s Nick Ferrari.

He said: "I used to work in the serving industry and I can tell you when you do business surveys, 98 businesses, or 100 businesses, is actually quite a representative sample."

Pressed on whether this was representative of the nearly 48,000 other pubs across the UK, he added: "If you're doing public opinions, 1,000 interviews is a representative sample [...]

Data used to justify the move reportedly relied on just 400 samples – including 98 pubs

"It's actually a pretty robust sampling."

Zahawi also warned of an economic struggle, with the UK’s recovery slowing.

He told BBC Breakfast: “This is a really tough year economically. The Chancellor has put around £190 billion into the economy to protect jobs.

The government is struggling to contain a rapid rise in infections across the UK

“Undoubtedly 2020 is going to be a difficult year. The direction of travel is still positive, it’s still over 2 per cent growth, but nevertheless many many businesses, whether it’s hospitality and retail or aviation are struggling with coronavirus as are many other nations around the world.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to impose tougher curbs on pubs, cafes and restaurants in northern England next week – which may be shut altogether in Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.

The UK yesterday recorded 17,540 new coronavirus cases, up by more than 3,000 from the day before.

A further 77 people died after testing positive for the virus within 28 days.