Sunday, 2 August 2020

Tit for tat

It’s reported that a senior scientist advising the government has said that pubs or “other activities” in England may need to close to allow schools to reopen next month. ‘Prof Graham Medley told the BBC there may need to be a "trade-off", with the re-opening of schools seen as a "priority" for children's wellbeing.’

However, it’s hard to see how such a trade-off works in practice. It’s not as though there’s a fixed amount of infection going round, and if you make it easier for it to spread in one environment you have to make it more difficult in another completely unrelated one. Indeed it just comes across as vindictive. If there really was a problem, then why not just ban children and teachers from going to pubs?

If this did happen, it would be a kick in the teeth for a sector that has had to endure nearly four months of closure and even now is struggling to get back on its feet again. It is likely that many operators would reach the conclusion that there was no point in trying to run pubs when they were subject to capricious closures, and simply give up the ghost. And where would the money come from to pay for the business support and furloughing staff? Or would they simply be thrown to the wolves? It also wouldn’t sit well with the attempt to get people back into pubs and restaurants through the “Eat Out to Help Out” scheme during August.

Pubs are often singled out by the media as an example of a business sector that is essentially frivolous and that, if need be, we could easily manage without. However, they are just part of the wider hospitality industry that also includes cafés, restaurants, coffee shops and hotels, and it is impossible to decouple them. Indeed many pubs do far more business selling meals than drinks. If it again became impossible to sit down and eat a meal outside the house, or stay anywhere else overnight, the economy would be put back into the deep freeze of the darkest days of the lockdown.

The government has been widely accused of taking a “whack-a-mole” approach to Covid, pursuing various half-baked, headline-grabbing policies while lacking any clear overall strategy. And the official Opposition cannot hold them to account when all they seem to want is more of the same, both more restrictions and more spending.

So far, people have generally responded to the various restrictions placed on them with a kind of resigned acceptance. However, key to all this is a feeling of hope that eventually there is light at the end of the tunnel. Things have, albeit painfully slowly, been relaxed. But if that process is put into reverse, resignation can all too easily turn to despair and then to anger. There is only so much people will put up with.

16 comments:

  1. "It’s not as though there’s a fixed amount of infection going round, and if you make it easier for it to spread in one environment you have to make it more difficult in another completely unrelated one."

    It actually is quite a lot like that. Since the government took the decision not to clamp down hard enough or long enough to eliminate the virus altogether, there has always been the risk of further outbreaks. Each outbreak is bad in itself - particularly for the people who are killed or permanently impaired by it - but some would argue that individual outbreaks can be traded off against the broader economic benefit of keeping things open and keeping people at work. But if you get enough outbreaks, suddenly you're into a second wave - which would lead to a much harder economic slowdown as well as a lot more death and long-term ill-health.

    So the logic is simple: opening the pubs risks a certain number of outbreaks, opening the schools also risks a certain number of outbreaks. Opening both together might risk enough outbreaks to put us into a second wave, so we can't have both.

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    1. "Since the government took the decision not to clamp down hard enough or long enough to eliminate the virus altogether"

      The only way to eliminate the virus altogether would have been to lock down everyone, worldwide, (NO exceptions) for a period of at least 28 days! Anything else is just tinkering.

      The virus is 'out there' and there is no way to stop it. I'm always staggered that people actually believe that governments can control such a natural phenomenon. King Canute couldn't turn back the sea and no-one can stop COVID-19. Sure, these piecemeal tactics may delay it in some places but, ultimately, it will continue through the population with or without government intervention.

      The simple truth is; if govermnents worldwide had done nothing about COVID-19 the Human race would have survived...and it would have been in a much better position economically to thrive and grow afterwards than in the situation we currently find ourselves.

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    2. We're currently averaging 65 Covid deaths per day (down from over 1000 a day at the peak). Many different countries, some of which were hit quite hard by the virus, are currently averaging 0 per day. It's true that they haven't eliminated all possibility of reinfection - from visitors from Britain, perhaps - but it's a bit more than tinkering.

      Yes, if governments worldwide (including our own) had done nothing about Covid the human race would have survived. Whether pubs would have survived is quite another question - particularly as not doing anything would have caused around 200,000 excess deaths and precisely the kind of economic crash that the government's currently trying to avoid.

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    3. But...would those supposed 200,000 excess deaths have caused anything like the economic downturn that the various government measures have already caused? Especially when you consider that 95% of those deaths would have been amongst the 70+ years old sector of the population. I think not. (I also happen to believe that the final death toll will probably be close to 200,000, but just spread out over a longer period than if nothing had been done!)

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    4. If the government had done nothing then you would have seen very different circumstances. As it was, despite the large numbers of people dying, everyone got hospital treatment and the deaths were largely confined to hospitals or other clinical settings. Without any intervention you would have had tens of thousands of people simply being turned away from medical care and left to die at home or in the street in large numbers. That sort of thing has a very different impact on people than what actually happened.

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    5. Maybe...and maybe not. All those 'Nightingale' Hospitals were constructed to cope with that overcapacity and hardly used. They also virtually stopped all other NHS functions so that the NHS wasn't seen to be failing from coronavirus...but what will be the long term cost of that in terms of lives?
      What would have made more sense would have been to lock down everyone in the 70+ age range (plus all those with underlying conditions), let all those in the 50 and under category carry on as normal and for the 50 - 70 years olds, strongly advise to lock down, but if they chose not to, then recommend social distancing. (Or something along those lines)

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    6. The Government's intention has not been to eradicate the virus, only to slow the death rate, to one with which the mortuaries and crematoriums can cope. So this sort of chimes in with that approach.

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    7. The initial intention of the lockdown was to "flatten the cruve" and prevent the NHS being overwhelmed. That was achieved, and now the number of cases is way below the level needed to cause that. So that wouldn't be a valid reason now to close one sector to allow another to open.

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  2. It's a major concern Mudgie. Pubs are going to shut like never before. My local will be a farmhouse Inn at an A50 service station!

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  3. Time the men in grey suits came for Boris - he's gone completely mad and is destroying the country and the economy.

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  4. Rightly said, Mudge. If pubs were forced to close for a second time, many of them would never reopen. Its all well and good for the government's advisers, with their mathematical modelling, but I fail to see the correlation between pubs and the reopening of schools.

    It's almost as though this policy is being driven by spite!

    Pete is right with there being no way to completely eliminate the virus, and seeing that the mortality rate is little higher than that experienced during a bad winter flu season, the whole lockdown has been a gross over- reaction.

    As you rightly point out, there is only so much people will put up with, and governments ignore this at their peril.

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  5. When pubs reopened I noticed all the measures were followed by staff and customers. Strict observance.
    A month later it is more a case of lip service.

    I see now an over 50's lockdown is being considered.

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    1. Seeing that it the under thirties who are the ones spreading the virus most effectively it would make more sense to lock them down.
      Then us old codgers could go back to our comfortable fireside seats in the pub.

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    2. Don't think I agree with that. Everywhere I have been is talking it very seriously. The customers, some at least, admittedly less so by inclination, but they have little choice if the pub chooses, rightly, to do the safe thing. If the standards are shit, I'm out of there.

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    3. I actually went in a couple of pubs over the weekend where they were taking things *more* seriously due to the Greater Manchester lockdown. In Spoons they had a greeter on the door taking people's contact details. My experience is that the vast majority of the pubs I have visited *are* taking it seriously.

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    4. I agree with Mudgie, of the 20+ pub visits we made on our recent canal trip there were only two that were, in my opinion, being a bit lax in their enforcement of the guidelines!

      As for locking down the under 30's...I'd suggest the opposite...getting 'herd immunity' amongst that group would be a good thing and not likely to cause many deaths!

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