26 May 2022

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The Prime Minster has spoken – but is it enough?
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The Prime Minster has spoken – but is it enough?

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Not a lot of good news around for the autumn equinox. It looks like a hard winter lies ahead

A very widely “leaked” statement was made by the Prime Minister at noon today aiming to set out new restrictions being brought in to combat Covid-19.

Probably the one which will affect society most is the curfew on bars, pubs and restaurants at 10 pm in the evening. The rationale behind this is that it is felt that after this hour the drink takes over and self-distancing is regarded as something for somewhere else. There certainly seems to be little argument that people tend to forget all about it after having a few.

Another rule is that there is to be table service only. This was the original rule when pubs opened in the first place but somehow seems to have got lost. Without a doubt it is a most sensible precaution because preventing to movement of people would certainly help reduce movement of the virus.

The lessening of restrictions on sports functions is being brought to a dramatic halt and the present experiments are to be halted. A further move is to reverse the earlier advice that people should go back to work if possible. Now people should work from home if possible but should go back to work if they cannot work from home. The wearing of face masks has been extended as well.

Above all the Prime Minster told Parliament that they ought to expect these restrictions for probably six months. Now that is a big move.

As before, the hospitality industry seems to be the one bearing the brunt of the problem and business owners will now have to think about yet another business model which recognises the earlier close of business. Perhaps society will be persuaded to move towards going out and doing their socialising earlier so that 10 pm does not seem too much of an issue. If people are working from home, they might just have the flexibility to do that.

Is there a real possibility that this might herald the end of the traditional English pub as we know it? You only have to get out of the habit of doing something for the something to become a thing of the past. With millions having quietly stayed at home for many months now, perhaps going to the pub is not the treat or fun it used to be.

Today’s government announcements are accompanied by other bad news announcements, notably that the Wetherspoon pub chain is likely to axe some 400 to 450 jobs at its six airport outlets in the country. The reason for this is predictable – the considerable drop in passenger levels has brought about a massive drop in trade. Nothing is certain yet, according to Wetherspoons, but stark economics are difficult to argue with.

Another bad news story today is the Whitbread group expecting to make 6000 staff redundant across its restaurant and hotel brands due again to a drop in business due to Covid-19. Whitbread is fortunate in that it will have funding to get through the crisis but as always levels of business will determine what staff can be retained.

And yet more – the story has broken that Easyjet finds itself in big trouble. Management have apparently told the pilots that they just do not need them all and that they have the option of going on part time working or probably finding a huge percentage of them fired – what a choice. There are those who question whether Easyjet will still be going come the spring.

There seems to be little doubt that major cracks are now appearing in the fabric of our society in so many areas and of course the economy is the one which is likely to drive most of them. It seems the “adjustment” we have talked about on various occasions is slowly taking place. It is too early yet to see how this will play out but it is not difficult to predict that hospitality and travel will both be changed in ways we probably cannot yet imagine. Indeed perhaps life will become reminiscent of how it was during the cold war behind the Iron Curtain where having fun and travel were certainly not encouraged. There are surely many alive today who will never see life again as it was; a very sobering and perhaps depressing thought.

Adrian Leopard 22-09-20

Photo Markus Spiske

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