Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Never let you go

While it had been well signalled in advance, the news yesterday that the end of lockdown restrictions was being postponed by a further four weeks will have come as a bitter blow to the hospitality trade. Business leaders have warned that the delay will ruin the industry.

Few pubs, especially wet-led ones, are currently able to trade profitably, and many are hanging on by the skin of their teeth in the hope that things will eventually improve. Less than a quarter are confident of being able to survive three months. A delay to 19 July will mean losing over half the summer, by far the most lucrative season for most. They will also miss out on the entire Euro 2020 football tournament which, along with the World Cup, is the biggest moneyspinner in the trade.

Pubs are bleeding to death. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the government are conducting a deliberate vendetta against them. They certainly seem supremely indifferent to their fate. Yet at the same time, forced into a sanitised experience in pubs and unable to socialise there in large groups, many people will be choosing to go to house parties instead, where social distancing guidelines are well-nigh impossible to police.

I have criticised the snail-like pace of the unlocking roadmap, but at least it provided a clear timetable and hope of light at the end of the tunnel. If we had unlocked next Monday, a lot would have been forgiven and forgotten. But to kick the can down the road for a further four weeks will result in a huge erosion of trust. This will only have been compounded by the sight of large groups of world leaders socialising unmasked at the G7 summit on Cornwall. It clearly seems to be one rule for us and another for the little people.

The move has been condemned by numerous respected commentators and newspaper leading articles. I could offer a forest of links, but will just give you this unpaywalled one from David Paton of the University of Nottingham.

The delay to the reopening is a devastating blow to many businesses and sectors, such as the events industry, sports, music, theatre and hospitality. There ought to have been compelling evidence for any delay. But there is nothing in the data to justify it.
It’s quite an achievement to unite the Daily Telegraph, Theresa May and Sadiq Khan in opposition to your policy. Yet it will get through the House of Commons without difficulty because, as throughout the past fifteen months, Starmer will act as Johnson’s nodding dog. The official opposition have abdicated their responsibility. You don’t have to oppose the policy outright to scrutinise it properly and force the government to account for their decisions, and Labour have signally failed to do this.

Predictably, many from the scientific community had urged the government to delay the unlocking, and will no doubt now be feeling pleased with themselves. But, of course, they would say that, wouldn’t they? They have no skin in the game, and no responsibility for anything beyond their own narrow remit.

We could bandy statistics about all day, but it’s worth noting that the current level of hospitalisations is below the lowest of five scenarios produced by SAGE when the roadmap was originally announced on February 22. The average number of Covid deaths in England over the past two weeks was 7.7, or scarcely more than half of one percent of all deaths. There is plenty of evidence that vaccinations have broken the link between cases and hospitalisations. There is no realistic chance of the NHS being overwhelmed, which is what was put forward as the original justification for lockdowns, not keeping the population under the heel until Covid had virtually disappeared.

Johnson has stated that he is “confident” that the restrictions will end on July 19. Yet there has been a long trail of such broken promises before. And, as the next review date approaches, the joyless sociopaths of SAGE will no doubt be ramping up the pressure to persuade him to extend the lockdown even further. It is being seriously suggested that the partial lockdown is now likely to continue all through the winter, in which case we would have precious few pubs left at the end of it.

Last September, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis made the decision to unlock the state against the advice of the scientists, and the state has never looked back. Large swathes of the US are fully open again despite a considerably lower vaccination rate than the UK. Yesterday, Denmark cancelled all mask mandates, and today Israel has scrapped all Covid restrictions. If they can do it, why can’t we?

Many foreign commentators have expressed their surprise at the high level of restrictions that persist in the UK despite the highest level of vaccinations of any major European country. In reality, SAGE will never let go willingly, and eventually Johnson is going to have to face them down, or we will never be set free. As before, I’m not making any specific predictions, but suffice to say that I will be pleasantly surprised if I am actually able to order a pint at the bar on July 19.

29 comments:

  1. My local CAMRA micropub does deliveries
    CAMRA has virtual beer festivals
    We've adapted.
    I don't think we need hospitality anymore.

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    1. Despite what you read there is nothing sacred about the hospitality industry. Other industries have been destroyed by external events or government actions with out the sky falling down. Textiles, coal mining, steel making shipbuilding; all gone. Looking at the planned destruction of farming and fishing puts the plight of hospitality into perspective

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    2. CAMRA has virtual beer festivals. Is this the depths that the Campaign for Real Ale has descended to? No wonder membership figures are falling.

      If I can't have the real thing, then I do without. CAMRA should do the same, stop being frightened of its own shadow and get back out there.

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    3. It was striking that CAMRA's response to the announcement of the lockdown extension was far more about financial compensation than expressing anger about the decision itself.

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    4. The Zoom CAMRA meetings are better than the pub based ones of old.
      There's no need to go back.
      We have our craft beer delivery.
      Modernity is here to stay. We should thank pubs for the role they have played in the survival of real ale but acknowledge the post pub world is where real ale will now thrive.

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    5. Sounds like the beer 'enthusiast' element of Camra, otherwise known as tickers. No real interest in beer itself, certainly no interest in social drinking and pubs, just as long as the tick is achieved.

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    6. I hope that was all said in jest CAMRA Man?

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    7. I suspect he is a persona of a certain Mr Lager ;-)

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    8. CAMRA Male Identified Person.21 June 2021 at 13:47

      Real Ale has been the best beer for indicating we are more discerning than the prols for decades. The only problem has been the requirement to drink it in pubs that are full of prols. It is dangerous to sneer at the oiks in full view of them. The CAMRA micropub safe space has been a great development to be able to drink real ale away from the prols and much easier to sneer at them from a distance knowing they can’t hear you as they are all drinking fizzy popular filth in the Wetherspoons. However getting deliveries to home and not having to step foot in the micropub is even better, as lets be honest, your average CAMRA is bit odd to say the least insisting on applying a score to every drink and often occupying the entire establishment for yet another tedious talk on the history of IPA. Covid has brought progress. We can drink our home delivered craft take outs and sneer at the prols over Zoom. How anyone cannot think this an improvement I don’t know.

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  2. I wandered into town with the wife on Friday night at half ten. Town was dead and the pub we went into had one other customer besides ourselves and he was sitting at the bar talking to the landlord.
    We had a couple of pints and played pool for an hour, before we asked to boss how long he planned to stay open.
    His unexpected response was that he no longer gives a crap and as long as we wanted to stay there drinking, he would serve us.
    We joined him and the other chap sat at the bar and had a couple more pints before I got cheeky and said that if he no longer gives a crap, how about an ashtray. he surprisingly said he didn't have any, but gave us an empty glass and said just flick your ash in that

    Doors open, sat drinking and smoking at the bar

    It should have felt a lot better than it did, but before the Governments pandemic response, that was one of my favourite pubs in town and it's clearly not going to be there for very much longer

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    1. Reminds me of the pub near me that decided to allow smoking on its last night of trading, and not surprisingly was packed to the rafters. Not a lot Environmental health can do about it!

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  3. It is quite unfair to criticise the scientific community. Why do think SAGE want to prolong the lockdown? As you say they have no skin in the game and nothing to loose if the lockdown is lifted. As scientists they can, nay must, give their considered opinion however unpopular. It is the politicians who are paid to make the hard decisions and bear the consequences

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    1. Which is why I said at the end of the day it is up to Johnson to face them down.

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    2. But will a man who's more concerned with what his spin doctors tell him, and his popularity with the "Mum's Net" brigade, actually grow a pair?

      Unfortunately I just see more bluster and fudge, as Whitty and Valance look smilingly on.

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    3. I think it’s fair to heap criticism on the individual members of the scientific community who are members of advisory groups but take every opportunity to speak to the media with their individual opinions, often contradicting their own bodies and certainly the government.

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    4. Yeah that really winds me up as well - if I was working for a client on a project and went to the media outside of the group, my feet wouldn't touch the ground as I was ejected from the contract. This policy via media leaks has to stop.

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  4. At this stage hospitality is Boxer the horse.

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  5. Can't disagree sadly with anything here. The question is what can we do?

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  6. Like the right call on the ' little people'. Glad you did not cease blogging. Cheers,Sok of Bournemouth.

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    1. I don't think I ever threatened to give up blogging, although there have been one or two fallow periods during lockdown.

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  7. Now New York State, which previously had one of the hardest lockdowns in the US, has abandoned all Covid restrictions. We are looking increasingly isolated in clinging on to lockdown.

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  8. My own experience of pubs in Cardiff and Manchester is that,notwithstanding the restrictions,trade is holding up,particularly for those businesses which have taken steps to adapt,such as arranging out door drinking areas.. Provided that suitable support is provided,including a compulsory arbitration system to deal with accrued rent arrears as used in Australia,the hospitality industry will survive and customers can help by using their pubs as much as possible.

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  9. When I flagged these issues up to my MP in January, her response was to highlight the financial support that her government was giving to the hospitality industry. I hadn't been intending to get drawn into an argument, but I felt impelled to explain to her that she was really saying that the Government would borrow whatever money was necessary to keep kicking this can down the road, knowing that when the "Covid-emergency" ended and the magic money tap had to be turned off, hundreds of thousands of people would be shocked to find that their jobs no longer existed. Monday's announcement was just further confirmation that the Government is just buying time.

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    1. The brutal truism that many don't quite realise is that no nation ever improved the overall health of it's citizens by making itself poorer. Suggest putting economy before health and cries of "You want to kill granny" are heard. Whereas it turns out that putting economy before health is possibly the only thing that will save grannies in the future. Sadly there has been so much fear instilled in many that they can't think logically anymore. Then again, many just want to be told what to do. The decimation of the hospitality industry will be felt for many years :-( I've got good friends whose future is looking decidedly unsure.

      What I can't work out is why a conservative government seems hell bent on killing entire sectors of our economy. What in the long term are they going to get out of it? We could open up tomorrow and the virus will carry on it's merry way - much in the same way as it does in countries/states with no restrictions where the curve didn't go off the scale. The fundamental flaw of the SAGE models is that if unchecked, rates will carry on rising. That's counter to all prior understanding of viruses AND the clear evidence from places like Florida where this simply doesn't happen.

      If somebody says to me that all it means is you can't go dancing at a night club, then I'll scream. Point totally missed.

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  10. Latest headline: "Freedom Day may actually occur on July 5 if Covid data continues to improve."

    Let's hope so - but that would be an admission that they got it wrong in the first place by extending the lockdown.

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    1. July 5th! What a happy coincidence, the football fiesta final can be held at Wembley and the Euro nabobs can attend. All quickly followed by further restrictions no doubt.

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    2. Some more information on 5th July. Personally, I doubt it :-(

      https://lockdownsceptics.org/2021/06/20/great-hope-we-could-unlock-on-july-5th-says-vaccine-expert-but-will-boris-follow-the-data/

      And one of the key things keeping hospitality in lockdown is possibly flawed:

      https://lockdownsceptics.org/2021/06/20/scientists-find-most-pcr-test-results-do-not-indicate-infectious-virus-question-status-as-gold-standard/

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  11. The ones that really hack me off are so-called "Independent SAGE", a bunch of self-appointed prodnoses

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