Where is the biggest risk going to be over the next few weeks as we move out of the final stages of restrictions? I suspect it won’t be in churches as we move back to normal worship, it is clear that churches are seeking to do this responsibly. It won’t be in your local supermarket. Even without masks, it is unlikely that people are going to be packing in tight, hugging, kissing, shouting and singing in Morrisons this morning. Nor will it be on public transport where mask wearing, especially at peak times continues to be encouraged and in some contexts enforced.
The real risk is going to be in nightclubs. At 1 minute past midnight on Monday, the clubs re-opened. People queued to get in and then packed in to what was described as “like New Years Eve.” There’s been a lot of talk about how young people have had a tough pandemic and need to let their hair down. Of course when we reach the end of this, there will be a sense of relief from all. I’m not sure that the under 30s are particularly entitled to let their hair down and celebrate before it is properly over.
The system of making the changes at midnight doesn’t help. If the rules had changed at 6am this morning, we probably would have seen something different. Clubs would have reopened this evening and people would have gradually made their way in with time to thoroughly check that they’d had vaccines or Lateral Flow Tests. Most clubs would not have started to get busy until the weekend. The risk with what happened on Monday is that it will create super spreader type contexts and have a similar impact on overall infection rates to the Euros.
There is one measure that Boris could have taken to get the country safely reopened without putting so much pressure on cases and so on to hospital admissions. That is to keep the night clubs closed. There is of course the counter argument that it was the owners of such establishments that were clamouring for a full freedom day in order to protect their businesses.
Well perhaps it is time to take a stand and say that the closure of the nightclubs is a sacrifice we could have made in order to get out of the pandemic. The media may present these venues as offering a bit of light relief but the truth is different.
Night Clubs encourage irresponsible levels of drinking and attitudes to sex, not to mention the exchange of drugs. For too long their owners have picked up the profit whilst others have been left to pick up the mess. Whether its other shop owners clearing up the vomit and debris in the morning or it’s the A&E workers pumping stomachs on Saturday nights and the Street Pastors giving crisis support to young people who have got in a mess and are tearful and frightened. Then there’s the long term work for counsellors of helping people recover from the damage done by one night.
Nightclub owners had the opportunity to voluntarily join in with immunity passport schemes and show that they had some modicum of social responsibility. They have in the main made it clear that they have no such intention.
So my call to Boris is “open things up as much as possible but keep the nightclubs closed.” It will help us get through this phase of return to normal safely and it might contribute to a better society in the long run.