Saturday, 12 September 2020

I’m Spartacus

In a further blow to the embattled pub trade, the Scottish government have decreed that, from Monday, customers in hospitality venues will be required to wear face masks at all times except when seated and actually eating or drinking. Bear in mind that in Scotland bars are now supposed to be table service only, so the question of going to the bar doesn’t arise, but even so it is likely to prove significantly offputting to many pubgoers. Going to the pub is, after all, a discretionary leisure activity, not something you have to do like shopping for food.
Given that you are already expected to be seated at all times, it is table service only, there is no piped music, the TV volume has to be muted, there should be no raised voices and definitely no singing, the atmosphere in Scottish pubs is already pretty grim and joyless.

This raises an obvious issue as to how the masks are actually used. The government guidelines say that you should “avoid taking it off and putting it back on a lot in quick succession”, which is precisely what you’re going to be doing in a pub situation. Plus they recommend washing hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds both before putting on the mask and before removing it. It’s hard to see that being adhered to when Jimmy’s on his fifth toilet visit of the evening. (These are the guidelines for England, but I can’t see those for Scotand being much different).

It’s also extremely problematical how it is going to be enforced, and it carries huge potential for creating flashpoints between staff and customers. The government have acknowledged that some people may have genuine reasons for not wearing a mask, but there is no official scheme of confirming or proving exemption.

In settings where face coverings are required in England, there are some circumstances where people may not be able to wear a face covering. Please be mindful and respectful of such circumstances, noting that some people are less able to wear face coverings, and that the reasons for this may not be visible to others.

These include:

• people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability, and
• where putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress

The government have avoided stating which medical conditions may entitle someone to an exemption, but lists have been widely circulated which include, for example, Asperger syndrome, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, depression, emphysema and hearing difficulties. Most of the customers of the “Clansman” from “Still Game” would no doubt qualify on multiple counts.

I see many frail-looking, elderly people struggling around the supermarket in a mask who must surely have good cause to claim exemption but, just as with the reluctance to claim means-tested benefits, they probably just don’t want to make a fuss.

It is possible to buy a card stating that you are exempt to provide some visible evidence, but there is no check on anyone’s eligibility. And the guidelines go on to say:

Those who have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering should not be routinely asked to give any written evidence of this, this includes exemption cards. No person needs to seek advice or request a letter from a medical professional about their reason for not wearing a face covering.
Indeed the Equalities Act 2010 makes it clear that businesses have no right to enquire as to the nature of someone’s disability or medical condition, and no right to exclude customers on the grounds of disability. So pubs have no legal ability to enforce the rule. If all their customers turn up and declare that they are exempt, there is nothing they can do about it. “You don’t look very disabled to me” is an incredibly insensitive thing to say to someone with a disability that isn’t immediately obvious. It will also create tension between customers when some object to others being unmasked even if they have an entirely legitimate reason for exemption.

10 comments:

  1. You don't need to buy a card, you can download one from this government website either to print or to display on your mobile phone.
    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, but the official-looking card on its own dedicated lanyard may be more convincing to jobsworth doormen and Covid marshals.

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    2. You're probably right...but I haven't had to show mine at all, yet! I've travelled into and out of Brum on the train, shopped in Tesco and Morrison's, been into New Street Station and other places without a mask (sorry, face covering!) and I've yet to be challenged!

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  2. I just had a lovely beer from Hadrian Border Brewery in my garden with my neighbour, he was then off to watch the Sunderland game.

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    Replies
    1. From the sublime beer to the ridiculous team! :D

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  3. The pubs in my bit of Scotland aren't a bit grim, in fact they're quite cheerful. True, there's no music but there's sport on the telly and you can have a conversation without shouting.

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  4. We currently live with this rule and it doesn’t seem onerous. Arrive in a mask, get seated and then remove the mask.

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    Replies
    1. It is disappointing to see such meek acquiescene in totalitarian nonsense of this kind.

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  5. As I said at the beginning: the wearing of mask is for practical purposes entirely optional. The "severe distress" clause is available to anyone who wish not to wear a mask.

    And "but I can’t see those for Scotand being much different" is a curious conclusion given how much Scottish (and Welsh and NI) rules already differ from English ones.

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    Replies
    1. I hardly think the Scottish rules are going to say "it's fine to keep taking a mask off an on again and there's no need to wash your hands". Do you?

      Delete

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