The Handbook
The Handbook

We’re not used to crowds any more, Coronavirus has left us a nation of claustrophobics! The very idea of a rush-hour crush now triggers mild panic attacks while observing six feet of separation has become a religious rite.

From Sainsburys to sex parties, the way we interact has changed for the safer. One look at the current crisis engulfing the White House shows just how important this is; videos of top Republicans hugging, air-kissing and high-fiving before all dropping like flies underlines just how dangerous close interactions are. So why has our government imposed a daily super-spreading event on our nation’s diners?

Stock imagery fail: this is actually Dublin, but hey...

The government now appears to be creating ideal environments for coronavirus to spread as diners leave their carefully spaced and COVID-secure restaurant tables, and enter the Boris bustle outside...

The latest Downing Street diktat came into force on 24th September and forces all restaurants, pubs and bars to close at 10pm. The new law also includes heavy fines for non-compliance, indeed his weekend a London burger restaurant was fined £1,000 for serving a burger, ordered before 10pm, 4 minutes after the curfew started.

While nothing could be less in keeping with the PM’s Conservative philosophy than a curfew, it’s the lack of credible reasoning that is particularly frustrating. Despite conflicting scientific advice and little hard evidence for brining it in, the government now appears to be creating ideal environments for coronavirus to spread as diners leave their carefully spaced and COVID-secure restaurant tables, and enter the Boris bustle outside.

The mayor of London has taken to the airwaves to insist on an ‘immediate review’ of the restrictions which are simultaneously crippling the restaurant trade. Sadiq Khan was responding to concerns from police that the daily street melee is putting officers and the public at unnecessary danger, telling Radio 4’s Today Programme that “The government should carry out an immediate review of the effectiveness of this measure. It is essential that our clubs, theatres and other venues get access to extra emergency financial aid as long as the restrictions remain in place.”

While Mr Khan’s calls should be taken with a pinch of salt, given he’s also said to strongly favour much harsher restrictions for London which may well include closing restaurants altogether, we certainly agree that the curfew is bad news for diners and restauranteurs alike.

Meanwhile this morning Jeremy Joseph, owner of Soho’s G-A-Y mounted a legal challenge against the curfew, saying “The 10pm curfew, which has now been in place for the last two weeks and has been detrimental to the hospitality sector, including G-A-Y, makes absolutely no sense.

Continuing “It does the opposite of protecting people by pushing them onto the street at the same time. They are going from being safe inside venues with staggered closing times to unsafe on overcrowded streets and overloaded public transport.”

We can’t help but agree. A government that claims to ‘follow the science’ must surely respond to calls to review the effect of their policy.

Even if there is some scientific backing to the seemingly spurious notion that transmission between 10pm and 11pm (pubs’ usual kicking-out time) is what’s spreading the virus, you don’t need a lab coat to realise that forcing every single establishment to tip out its clientele at exactly the same time will surely have a far greater impact.

But this is the right one! Gosh we miss you Soho!

Meantime the impact on establishments themselves, which have already taken the brunt of the economic impact of coronavirus this year, is massive. The industry is once again forced to close its doors, but this time not to protect the public (as they did willingly, despite the massive cost, during lockdown) but rather to risk the very health of the clientele they have worked so hard to protect.

Boris, listen to science! Save our restaurants and save some lives at the same time!

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