Thursday, 20 January 2022

Freedom restored

There was good news yesterday when Boris Johnson announced that all remaining Covid restrictions in England were to be lifted. Possibly he went a little further than originally intended because the current political turmoil meant that he wanted to avoid another embarrassing backbench rebellion, but whatever the reason the outcome is most welcome. The work from home guidance was lifted immediately and the mask mandates and vaccine passports will go from Thursday of next week.

While the latest restrictions, introduced at the beginning of December, did not directly impact pubs and restaurants, they certainly did indirectly in terms both of reducing footfall in town and city centres and creating a heightened climate of fear that led to mass cancellations of seasonal bookings, as I reported here. While Christmas and New Year normally give pubs a boost, last year this trade was largely wiped out for the second year running.

Hopefully now the removal of restrictions will give the hospitality industry a clear run to recover and rebuild customer confidence during 2022, especially over the vital summer season. It also in political terms looks increasingly unlikely that restrictions will be reimposed. But it is important that pubs contribute to this by abandoning the pointless Covid safety theatre that remains fairly common. If you want a normal trading environment, you need to embrace normality rather than helping perpetuate a climate of fear.

I wrote in December how many of the dire predictions about the effect of Omicron had been greatly exaggerated, and so it has proved.

In the succeeding week, there has been plenty of evidence that the Omicron variant is relatively mild, and the return of restrictions might have been an over-reaction. It seems to conform to the general evolutionary path of viruses that they become more transmissible but less severe. Many media commentators going well beyond the usual lockdown sceptics have suggested that it was a step too far, and that we couldn’t live in a permanent state of fear.

The government have stated they will review the restrictions in three weeks’ time, and we can hope that they will rescind them, although such back-tracking would lead to a lot of egg on face. But, even then, it would be just a week before Christmas, and too late to rescue much of the holiday season.

The pity is that it took them seven weeks to realise this rather than three, but at least they have in the end.

It has been very noticeable over the past few days how many politicians and commentators are embracing the liberalisation and backtracking on their previous support for lockdowns and restrictions. It is going to become like France after the war where it was well-nigh impossible to find anyone who didn’t claim to have been a member of the Resistance.

Scotland and Wales have not followed suit, and in fact never relaxed restrictions to the same extent as England during last year. This has not, however, resulted in any better figures for Covid deaths and infections, and has certainly produced a worse outcome for hospitality. It will be interesting to see how long they persist with this stance while seeing the English tourism and hospitality industries – and indeed the economy in general – forge ahead.

12 comments:

  1. We need trials for those who led to that dreadful situation of lockdown, and for those who researched this potential bioweapon in a lab. Laws must be enshrined that nothing of the sort must ever happen again, only capable of being overturned by a supermajority. Oh, and ban masks for filthy bacteria-laden rags that they are.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're arguing for a written constitution then.

      Parliament is supreme here, and can overturn anything that it likes as it stands.

      Delete
  2. After nearly two two years we have to live with it. Just like the odd ropey pint of Doom Bar. Michael Pints

    ReplyDelete
  3. Happy to report that pubs have seemed a fair bit busier this last week. OK, that's in the South-East, but the return of regulars in their 60s notable in places like Bognor and Newhaven.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Today's tally, one small pub, on the edge of town, and a rather swish brewery, visitor centre and restaurant-cum-bar, opposite the railway station.

      Both nice and busy, in their own individual, and very different ways. Full report to follow in due course.

      Delete
  4. OT, happy days are here again! Morrisons now have a Oakham American Pale Ale. This is basically Citra which I could only get from Tescos where the steak mince is rubbish compared to Morrisons.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Meanwhile, the newspapers are falling over themselves, by scaring us with stories of yet another "variant."

    ReplyDelete
  6. AIUI the "Plan B restrictions" didn't prevent people from going to pubs and restaurants. I have been to a fair number of pubs (including The Blossoms: fine old fashioned boozer) and a few diners since Christmas.
    Lifting "Plan B" won't change the transmisiibilty of the virus or its severity. Sensible people will still make their own assessment of the risk and the more vulnerable will still eschew hospitality venues.
    I suspect that the hospitality industry will never recover to pre-pandemic levels. And, whilst I regret that, it won't be the first industry to be damaged or even wiped out by external events or government intervention: textiles, mining, steel.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sigh. As I say, hospitality in England (apart from nightclubs) wasn't directly affected by the latest restrictions, but it was very severely affected indirectly, as a whole raft of industry figures have stated. "I went in a pub" isn't really a very convincing anecdote.

      Anyway, my local Spoons was absolutely rammed yesterday lunchtime, so things must be looking up :-)

      Delete
    2. No need to sigh. That it was only indirectly affected by people making their own assessment of the risk.
      And, given the caution that I have expressed here over the last year, "I went in many pubs" should be a fairly convincing story :-)

      Delete
    3. People were making their own assessment only after being spooked by ludicrously pessimistic forecasts by SAGE that turned out to bear no relationship to reality.

      And you could have gone to six pubs a day, but it would have made no difference to the overall state of the market, which everyone involved in the trade agreed was dramatically depressed.

      Delete
  7. So a study by Johns Hopkins University has now shown that lockdowns only reduce deaths by 0.2%, which is hugely outweighed by all the collateral damage caused. It may seem intuitive that they work, but they don't.

    ReplyDelete

Comments, especially on older posts, may require prior approval by the blog owner. See here for details of my comment policy.

Please register an account to comment. To combat persistent trolling, unregistered comments are liable to be deleted unless I recognise the author. If you intend to make more than the occasional comment using an unregistered ID, you will need to tell me something about yourself.