Let’s bal­ance reopen­ing risks

Irish Examiner - - Opinion -

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.

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