Fri, 13 Mar 2020
As coronavirus cases pass 500 and the country prepares for school closures and the possibility of working from home, spare a thought for the pub landlords whose livelihoods depend on people getting out of the house.
Friday nights would normally see hoards of thirsty colleagues flock for a refreshing pint or glass of wine but today boozers are gearing up for a slightly different start to the weekend.
Yesterday Boris Johnson announced the next phase of the Government's battle plan but schools were not closed, gatherings not halted and businesses not ordered to make staff work from home – despite the fact many already have.
Covid-19 has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) – which means it is now established in numerous countries across the globe – and suddenly the prospect of grabbing a cold one with friends isn't so appealing.
What are pubs doing?
Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon said it was business as usual at every branch but the company was deploying certain measures.
“We have communicated to our pub staff and customers that they need to wash their hands regularly," he said, adding: “Our pubs also have notices relating to people washing their hands. Contact points, including door handles, are being cleaned on a regular basis.”
Should punters be worried?
The country's chief medical officer Chris Whitty says there is no need for businesses to separate themselves from their customers and pubs are not being told to close.
Evidence as to how the virus spreads is still fairly limited, although the primary location people get infected is their own home according to the WHO's Dr David Nabarro.
However, after that infections also appear to be taking place anywhere people go and spend lengthy times sat round tables indoors near patients, he told The Guardian.
He said: “We are coming across stories where people, for example, have been sitting around a table in a restaurant or bar, where they are closer than two metres, spend quite a bit of time in each other’s company and the amount of time that passes is not clear. That appears to be the next commonest place where infections are taking place.
“That is why restaurants, pubs and churches – churches in particular because of physical closeness – are of interest.”
He also said poor ventilation is a contributing factor and despite large gatherings being cancelled elsewhere it appears open-air events are relatively safe, with people having to be in close proximity to an infected person for prolonged period to catch the virus.
But, he stressed, one of the most effective weapons remains good hygiene and proper "cough etiquette" – coughing or sneezing into a tissue, or if nothing else, your upper sleeze and washing your hands.
What CAMRA says
West Berkshire CAMRA chairman Andy Pinckard said: “It’s definitely going to hit the pubs and probably going to hit the more marginalised pubs. Not the ones in Newbury town centre, the ones that people travel to.”
"I guess the message to people in West Berkshire is to keep visiting the pub – they need our business.”
While numbers through the doors will likely be down there are no plans to shut up shop at any of the county's watering holes.
Medical advice remains the same – hygiene is key, so scrub your mitts between drinks.
In terms of catching the virus, you're no more likely to in the boozer than at work or at your local church and at the moment you have more chance of being infected at home.