26 May 2022

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Non-smokers not forgotten in new dining regime while case numbers escalate
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Non-smokers not forgotten in new dining regime while case numbers escalate

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It’s the unintended consequences which tend to trip people up!

I wonder if they forgot all about non-smokers when the government said that they were going to facilitate restaurants and pubs being able to make more use of outside space in its bid to keep the transmission of the Covid-19 disease down. There is no general ban on smoking outdoors in the UK which means that under the original proposals to extend external dining the no smoking in restaurants rule would have been conveniently forgotten – to the horror of many probably.

However, this is not to be as the House of Lords has jumped in to try and extend smoking restrictions to external dining areas. The government is to respond by tabling an amendment designed to give choice to diners by ensuring that venues offer separate seating for smokers and non-smokers outside with a proviso that the two areas are separated by at least 2 metres “wherever possible”.

No smoking in pubs and restaurants has been around now for so long that many would find eating or even just drinking in a smoking area would be unacceptable so the idea of ensuring there are no smoking areas is not only a good compromise but probably also a life-saver for businesses by retaining customers who might otherwise go elsewhere.

Under the new bill, the Business and Planning Bill, it is proposed to grant fast-track approval to allow hospitality businesses to convert car parks and terraces into temporary beer gardens and in some cases to permit the setting up of tables and chairs in the street. The present 28 day consultation period will be reduced to 5 days and every venue with an alcohol licence will be able to sell alcohol for consumption on the street.

It is to be hoped that this bill will become law very soon as the summer marches on and effectively there is probably less than two months left before al fresco dining gives away to chilly autumn days and nights. As to what will happen after that will very much depend on to what extent social-distancing restrictions are lifted.

This news comes at a time when there remains dissatisfaction within the restaurant trade over “selfish customers” who do not show up for their bookings and a disagreement in the trade as to whether the VAT reduction should be passed on to the consumer or retained by the venues. What is certain is that the re-opening of these businesses has not been quite the bonanza which the trade was hoping for as the public still seem to be reluctant to start going out again and until there is a vaccine it is looking like this may continue to be the case.

In this respect, they may be wise if they keep their eye on the new cases and deaths. Here again is the link to the Johns Hopkins University data showing how the numbers are moving forward all over the world.

It is not good. We have the USA now on the brink of 4 million declared cases and over 143000 deaths, that is 433 deaths per 1 million of population. Brazil, with the second highest number of cases, records deaths at 374 per million and one must wonder which data President Trump was reading over the weekend when he claimed that the USA had just about the lowest death rate in the world. Sadly, he could not be more wrong as Johns Hopkins shows.

The useful thing about the Johns Hopkins table is that you can set your own criteria so to see the league of deaths per million of population, just click on the column and hey presto. That way you would find that the country with the highest ratio is San Marino at 1238! But then it only has a population of 169000. In this table, the USA comes at number 10 out of 215 so I think that is pretty high. The average for the whole world is 78.1. Someone should probably mention this to President Trump.

There is no doubt that the rate of new cases worldwide is getting more and more serious, exceeding 220000 yesterday and countries romping forward with Brazil at number 2 and India at number 3 and the UK now at number 10.

In the meanwhile, further announcements are being made with further relaxation of the restrictions and businesses shows, conferences and stadia event looking like coming back in the autumn. Needless to say social-distancing measures will be required but this is the new normal and these events are no doubt going to feel very strange!

Adrian Leopard 20-07-20

Photo Rainier Ridao

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