Monday, 17 May 2021

Maskerade

As of today, pubs in England will once more be able to welcome customers indoors, although they will still have to operate table service. Pubgoers will also be legally obliged to wear a face mask on entering a pub until they are seated (unless exempt) and also if they get up to visit the toilet or go outside for a smoke. It is very hard to see how the act of putting a mask on as you walk in from the street and taking it off again thirty seconds later is going to make any difference to the spread of the virus. Are we expected to believe that it freely circulates at head height, but not at shoulder level when people are seated?

Even if you accept the rationale for masks, the way people are expected to use them in pubs goes completely against the official guidelines. “Avoid taking it off and putting it on again in quick succession,” they state. But even if you only make one toilet visit during your stay in the pub, you will still go through that sequence three times. It will be considerably more if you’re settled in for a long session.

I’ve seen teenagers in the street ask if any of the group has a mask on them so they can borrow it to go in the chippy, and it’s not hard to imagine the drinking school of codgers in Spoons dong the same for a fag break. What is more, the guidelines recommend that you should wash your hands before putting on a mask. But, in a pub, you can’t do that without visiting the toilet, for which you will need a mask. The whole way they will be used in pubs is completely at variance with the pious hopes of the official advice.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that, rather than having any impact on disease control, this charade is basically a means of psychological manipulation intended to perpetuate a sense of crisis. Hopefully in practice many pubs will end up turning a blind eye to it, as plenty of shops already do, although obviously they won’t want to advertise the fact for fear of attracting a wave of censorious finger-pointing.

However, given that it has been reported that the legal requirement for masks will come to an end on 21 June, in line with the roadmap, it will be interesting to see how committed pubs remain to enforcing it, and customers to adhering to it, as the deadline approaches. This of course has now been cast into doubt by the Indian variant, but it remains to be seen whether this will actually throw the timetable off track. No doubt I will return to that subject in the coming weeks.

12 comments:

  1. It will also be interesting to see which supermarket chains insist on masks after 21st June.

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    1. Hard to see that any will insist on it, as they'll just alienate customers and lose sales. Despite Morrisons being in the forefront of making a hoo-hah about masks in January, my local one has given up any attempt to check on the door and returned the layout to pre-lockdown normal. Tesco still seem to be making a perfunctory effort and have a retained a one-way system for entrance and exit.

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  2. "a means of psychological manipulation intended to perpetuate a sense of crisis"

    I yield to nobody in my lack of respect for this government, but I'm blowed if I can see why they (or any government) would want to do that.

    Yes, the measures are confused and imperfect. But they're also very much what you'd get if a commitment to get the pubs open and more or less functioning again collided with a commitment to at least do *something* about reducing the spread of the virus. Occam's Razor suggests that this is the preferable explanation.

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    1. It has been reported that the government have used psychological manipulation to maintain a climate of fear. I am far from alone in believing this.

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    2. Unfortunately Mudge, the Torygraph article you link to, is hidden behind a paywall, which is a pity as some of their stuff is free. The headline gives the gist, but it would have been interesting to have read the article in its entirety.

      I agree that the whole mask thing has become a total fiasco, but as you say criticism is likely to provoke a “wave of censorious finger-pointing” from do-gooders, Covid-narks and anyone else who gets pleasure from snitching on their fellow citizens.

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  3. I think its this illogical application of the mask rules that finally tipped me over the edge to believe it was all about reminding people their was a problem rather than a genuine attempt to reduce transmission. I know scientists aren't known for their understanding of real world behaviour, but it can't have come as a great surprise to know masks are completely mishandled in a pub. Any initiatives must take into account how people *actually* behave, not how we want them to behave. Constantly mishandling, re wearing and leaving in unsanitary conditions like the table will lead to poor outcomes.

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  4. Professor Pie-Tin17 May 2021 at 14:54

    Apparently the team at Oxford University is well advanced on a new vaccine to cope with the Indian variant.
    They're going to call it the PunJab.
    I'll get me coat and mask.

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  5. Just under a year ago Boris changed the social distancing guidelines from 2 metres apart to 'one metre plus'- meaning you could get closer than 2 metres if (for example) you were wearing a mask. How many shops do you go in where they are still asking you to keep 2 metres apart, even though everyone is wearing a mask? In my local Tescos, the people behind the till wear a mask and sits behind a perspex screen. Definitely overkill.
    And I'm in no hurry to go to the pub yet either, if it's still like it was last autumn. I've only visited a pub 8 times in the last 15 months now - the pleasure of going to the pub has disappeared for me. The last time I went to one, in October, there was just me, my wife and the person behind the bar. Might as well have stayed at home anyway.

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  6. Pubs need to get back to being the adult playgrounds they once were, smoking and girls dancing on tables included. Surely we have had enough of all the bullshit by now.

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    1. Very true ! Pubs went down pan when the smoking ban came in and gave in to the nanny state twats. As for girls dancing on tables what bliss that would be !!!

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    2. And I haven't seen a decent fight for years

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  7. This is the thing about face masks, so few use them correctly and not using them correctly leads to a false sense of security and an increased risk, relatively speaking.

    So as odd as those people in cars, driving alone with their masks on look as odd as those that wear it out in the fresh air, presumably walking to/from the shops, they are the ones who it would suggest are doing it correctly.

    And long may it continue to look odd, because it is not normal, these aren't normal times of course and their consignment to the dustbin (and then to the ocean to kill more wildlife) will be the sign we are back in normal times.

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