UK Bars And Pubs Still Pose Covid Risk Despite Safety Efforts, Experts Say.
UK Bars and pubs continue to pose a risk for the spread of Covid despite best efforts to make premises safe, researchers have said. Hospitality venues were first told to shut up shop back in March 2020 when the first UK lockdown was announced. As restrictions were eased, however, venues were once again allowed to trade.
But experts say despite efforts to adhere to precautionary measures, hospitality venues remain a high risk for the spread of Covid with research carried out in Scotland over the summer revealing problems from over-crowding to customers singing, and staff failing to effectively intervene.
“These are difficult issues for bars and pubs to hear at this time, and undoubtedly the risks will apply differently in different premises,” said Prof Niamh Fitzgerald, the director of the University of Stirling’s Institute for Social Marketing and Health, who led the research. “But there are very real issues around the social nature of pubs and the alcohol factor that makes them different from other public spaces.”
In Scotland, beer gardens were allowed to open from 6 July while both indoor and outdoor areas of pubs and restaurants were permitted to reopen from 15 July.
However, detailed guidance was issued around particular necessary precautionary measures, such as 1-metre physical distancing accompanied by signage and customers remaining seated, with extra requirements on measures including contact tracing introduced from August after a large Covid outbreak in Aberdeen was traced back to pubs and golf courses.
Researchers posed as customers
Writing in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, Fitzgerald and colleagues report how observations were made by pairs of researchers posing as customers in a diverse collection of 29 bars and pubs around Scotland in July and August. At each venue, the researchers spent up to two hours taking stock of the physical setup and behaviour of staff and customers.
The team found common problems, including customers having to pass close by each other in corridors and around the toilets, and less than half of premises offering table service only. There were also more serious problems in a large minority of premises. These included customers moving to join people at other tables, hugging those not in their party, taking selfies with members of staff, and prolonged singing, shouting or playing music.
“In most of those incidents the customers were drunk,” said Fitzgerald, adding in many cases staff failed to take action, or were unsuccessful in doing so.
UK pubs opening in April?
Speculation about reopening pubs in April is “premature” and allowing customers to return too early could put Britain “back to square one” in its Covid-19 fight, an expert has said.
Pub giant Young’s said there is “no reason” why bars can not reopen in April, in a letter by chief executive Patrick Dardis, sent to the Prime Minister. Mr Dardis accused the Government of showing a “lack of interest and respect” to the industry which is closed in lockdown.
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