The move to close all pubs and clubs across the country to curb the spread of Covid-19 will be damaging to the entire nightlife sector, but it is a necessary step.
Announced on March 15th, the move saw thousands of Irish pubs shut overnight, with tens of thousands made unemployed in an instant. I found myself among them, working the last shift before the quiet Louth pub was closed for what will likely be an indefinite period of time.
Overall, despite being directly affected by it, it was the right call by the government. The irresponsibility of some publicans who refuse to close their doors and continue to serve will only harm them in the long term. The Minister for Health, Simon Harris confirmed on Twitter that pubs who remain open won’t be looked on favourably when it comes to renewing licenses.
No matter what way you look at it, social distancing is impossible in a crowded pub. You only have to take a look at footage from Temple Bar to see how quickly the virus would spread among people inside.
Inevitably, some smaller pubs are going to stay closed due to this measure, unless the government decides to bring in a rescue package. Needless to say, I cannot see this happening.
Is this really sustainable though? There is a question of how people will deal with isolation from friends and family over a long period of time. Being stuck inside the house all day can be incredibly boring, and for those who might live alone, loneliness is sure to set in quickly.
Another important question at this time is whether or not social distancing is working to slow the spread of the virus.
The short answer to this question is we don’t know yet. These measures are still in early days, and we’ll only discover whether or not they’re working once more widespread testing takes place, and the backlog is cleared.
People not actively engaging with social distancing also pose a problem, with this leading to more contacts and potentially more cases further down the line. The footage of people queuing for fish and chips in Howth shows that some people aren’t taking it seriously just yet.
The main objective coming from closing pubs is to curb the spread of the virus, but will that really have a big impact if people aren’t practising social distancing outside those pubs? Only time will tell.