Europe coronavirus: Bars and pubs are closing as cases surge. Experts question if it will work


Berlin (CNN) — With Europe now reporting extra coronavirus cases than the United States, Brazil and India, in response to World Health Organization figures, many governments are closing down pubs and bars or limiting their opening hours within the hope of avoiding wider lockdowns.

It’s unhealthy information for drinkers, from Brussels to Paris to Edinburgh, and will carry extra ache for the embattled hospitality sector. But will the technique work?

In Berlin — a metropolis famed for its nightlife — bars stay open however new guidelines that come into power Saturday imply they will have to shut at 11 p.m., together with eating places and shops.

No greater than 5 folks will be allowed to assemble in a gaggle from 11 p.m. to six a.m. and not more than 10 folks at a time will be allowed to attend gatherings indoors. The measures are anticipated to stay in place till a minimum of the tip of October.

For Stefan Zenow, the 41-year-old proprietor of two Berlin bars, one within the well-liked get together district Friedrichshain and one other in Prenzlauer Berg, the brand new restrictions are an unwelcome blow.

His previously worthwhile enterprise is struggling to remain afloat after Germany’s lockdown earlier this yr, he says, and might shut down altogether with out extra state assist.

“This is taking us 10 steps back,” he stated. “Every month we have a minus on our books but we wanted to keep it running. Now, with these new restrictions we are no longer sure if we actually can. I believe this curfew will be in place until at least March or April next year.”

He’s contemplating opening earlier to try to get what business he can.

”Usually during the summer we open at 8 p.m. and are open until the last customer goes. Typically in winter we open at 7 p.m. But now with the curfew in place, we are thinking of opening at 5 p.m. so that people from work can grab a drink on their way home. It’s a model that Australia has already in place but I am not sure if this is going to really work for a city like Berlin.”

Zenow is also skeptical that the restrictions will work.

”It’s a human need to get together — to celebrate together. I don’t think that people like to be told what they cannot do — in my view they will continue to party. To prohibit controlled partying is not going to help! You can’t tell young people in their 20s and 30s to stop partying. I think the new law might have an adverse impact. People will then meet up privately to party. ”

But Health Minister Jens Spahn warned Thursday that now was not the moment for Germany to drop its guard.

“Barely some other nation in Europe has managed the disaster as nicely to date. But we should not gamble away what now we have achieved,” he said.

“The scenario right here in Berlin exhibits that careless and at occasions ignorant conduct throughout this pandemic can rapidly change the scenario for the more severe.”

Brussels shuts bars for a month

Other nations are adopting more drastic measures as they try to balance economic demands with increasing pressure on healthcare services.

Bars and cafes in Belgium’s capital, Brussels, were ordered to close Thursday for a month in an attempt to rein in soaring infection rates there.

Professional and amateur sporting clubs must also shut their bars for a month and the consumption of alcohol in public spaces is banned throughout the entire Brussels city region, its minister-president Rudi Vervoort announced Wednesday.

Brussels now “holds the place of second-most affected European capital between Madrid and Paris,” with 505 cases per 100,000 citizens, official Yves Van Laethem said during a coronavirus briefing.

The move came a day after tighter restrictions were imposed across the country’s roughly 11.5 million inhabitants. People in Belgium must now limit their social contacts to three people per month, with private indoor gatherings limited to four people. Outdoor gatherings are limited to four people, excluding those who live in the same household. Cafes and restaurants may serve no more than four people per table and must close their doors by 11 p.m.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said the restrictions were devised to “keep away from a basic lockdown” amid a “very worrying” evolution in the spread of the pandemic.

As coronavirus cases rise sharply in neighboring France, bars and cafes in the capital, Paris, were ordered to shutter Tuesday for two weeks. Restaurants there can stay open only if they follow strict hygiene and social distancing rules, the health ministry said.

People have drinks as they sit on the terrace of a bar in the French capital, Paris, on October 3, 2020.

CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP/Getty Images

Four more cities — Lille, Lyon, Grenoble and Saint-Etienne — were told to shut their bars, gyms and sports centers from Saturday as France reported a record 18,746 new infections on Thursday. Infection levels in Toulouse and Montpellier are “worrying” and they could be the next cities to come under new restrictions, Health Minister Olivier Veran said.

Bars in Marseille, on France’s Mediterranean coast, had already been ordered to close last month as case rates soared there.

Tougher anti-coronavirus restrictions also came into force in the Spanish capital, Madrid, and surrounding cities last Friday. The new restrictions require people to stay at home except to go to work, to classes, to do exams, to meet legal obligations or in extreme circumstances.

Shops, bars and restaurants must reduce their capacity by 50%, offer table service only and close earlier. Bars and restaurants must shut at 11 p.m., with last entry one hour before closing time.

Even Iceland, which came close to eliminating the virus over the summer, is now seeing infections rise. On Monday, it ordered the countrywide closure of bars for two weeks, as well as nightclubs, fitness centers and gaming establishments, and limited gatherings to 20 people.

Global health expert Peter Drobac, director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School, told CNN that governments across Europe were trying to find a balance between imposing restrictions on social interactions and keeping businesses alive.

Bars, nightclubs and restaurants are “an apparent candidate” for closures given what is known about transmission of the virus, he said.

“It tends to occur, and many of the necessary clusters now we have seen, are available enclosed and indoor areas that are crowded and have extended contact between folks,” he said. People talking, laughing and drinking alcohol only add to the risk of transmission, he said.

“We have to consider social worth and social value as we take into consideration what we need to hold open and what we need to shut. It entails some actually exhausting tradeoffs however, if you must select between conserving bars or faculties open, most individuals would select faculties.”

No alcohol indoors in Scottish pubs

Scotland is another country imposing strict limits from Friday on the service of alcoholic drinks, as it battles rising infection rates.

Pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants will be barred from serving alcohol indoors for 16 days, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced Wednesday. They will also be required to close at 6 p.m., except for hotel restaurants serving residents.

Licensed venues will still be allowed to serve alcohol outside until the current curfew of 10 p.m. across some of the country. However, in central parts of Scotland — including Glasgow and Edinburgh — all licensed venues will be closed from Friday, with the exception of hotel restaurants serving residents.

Sturgeon said the restrictions were “supposed to be quick, sharp motion to arrest a worrying enhance in an infection.” But the Scottish Licensed Trade Association warned of confusion, describing the guidance as a “shambles” in a tweet Friday.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson may also decide to bring in tougher measures across parts of England, particularly in the north, where infection rates are soaring.

Dr. Julian Tang, honorary associate professor in respiratory sciences at the University of Leicester, told the UK’s Science Media Centre that while some restrictions, such as the 10 p.m. curfew, might seem arbitrary, the point was to reduce the amount of contact between people.

“It shouldn’t be saying that the virus stops transmitting after 10 p.m. It simply acts to disperse folks earlier to scale back the variety of folks to whom it can unfold,” Tang said.

“But to be efficient, the spirit of the curfew must be sustained after folks depart the pubs — and not for folks to go to supermarkets and different folks’s properties to persevering with ingesting (or) socializing, however to go residence quietly in a socially distanced method to assist cease the virus transmitting any additional.”

It’s important to allow time for the restrictions to work, Tang added, and it could be three to four weeks before their impact can be properly assessed. However, it may be too little, too late, he cautioned.

“With the Covid-19 cases rising so rapidly throughout the inhabitants now, such restricted restrictions will not be adequate to scale back additional transmission of the virus inside this shorter time interval — and sadly, stronger measures might now be wanted.”

Drobac also warned that a very cautious, step-by-step approach could backfire.

“Early motion is often the way in which to go since you can not outrun exponential progress,” he said. “The longer we tinker with small steps with an outsize progress in cases, the tougher it is to get issues down beneath management.”

CNN’s Laura Smith-Spark wrote and reported from London and Nadine Schmidt from Berlin. CNN’s Niamh Kennedy, Simon Cullen, Amy Cassidy, Frederik Pleitgen, Gaëlle Fournier, Fanny Bobille, Schams Elwazer and Arnaud Siad contributed to this report.



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