Let’s balance reopening risks
The chief executive of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, Pádraig Cribben, expressed the hopes of Ireland’s lockeddown publicans when he said that he expects pubs to reopen next Monday. Outlining the seriousness of the situation for almost 4,000 family businesses that have not sold a drink or a peanut for five months, and who had expected to reopen on July 20, he said that pubs must open on Monday to “have any chance of viability”.
No matter how understanding and sympathetic anyone might be for the challenge facing our pubs, a cornerstone of our culture despite, changing attitudes, it is hard to be confident that a reopening might not re-energise the pandemic and provoke a dreaded second wave. There is also the fear, even if unspoken, that even publicans, determined to open and do business on the safest footing, will be undermined by indifferent, reckless customers. Unfortunately, reports that Portugese police have had to disperse large groups of Irish holidaymakers who broke Covid-19 restrictions sharpens that fear. An unnamed Irish teenager said he and his friends went to the Algarve every year. When asked how many of his friends were there, he responded: “Like maybe 50.”
It is not possible to see the decision around the pubs in isolation. Reopening schools is the priority and anything that might jeopardise that is at best questionable. That a UK expert has said pubs in Britain could have to shut so schools can reopen, amid concern there over a rise in infections among young people, can hardly be cheering for the drinks sector.
These discussions continue as the Australian state of Victoria declared a state of disaster and imposed new lockdown measures after a surge in infections. Residents in Melbourne are subject to a night-time curfew and there will be further restrictions on residents’ ability to leave home. To-date, Australia has been more successful than many countries in tackling Covid-19, but cases are rising in Victoria. Yesterday, Premier Daniel Andrews said the measures were working but too slowly. “We must go harder. It’s the only way we’ll get to the other side of this,” he said The new rules will remain in place until at least September 13, he added.
As ever, there are myriad examples of how difficult it is to get to grips with the pandemic, especially as so many insist on international travel.