Covid closures a sign of things to come

The Butlers Arms was temporarily close because of a Covid-19 infection
The Bracebridge in Sutton Park has closed its doors temporarily

COMMENT: We are facing chaos over reopening as cases surge and businesses shut down

As pubs are forced to close their doors again in Sutton Coldfield because of Covid-19 infections, there’s a sense of deja vu as so-called ‘Freedom Day’ looming large.

Last summer’s reckless early reopening of venues and the ridiculous ‘eat out to help out’ scheme should have served as a warning. This was followed by the autumn lockdown and the botched Christmas messaging which led to the catastrophic January and February death toll.

Yet again, this blundering government is leading us down a path to who knows where, as infections rocket.

At the time of writing this there were nearly 50,000 daily infections of the killer disease across the country.

The Butlers Arms on Lichfield Road had to close after a member of staff contracted the virus and reopened on July 16. The Bracebridge in Sutton Park has been forced to temporarily close and will reopen on July 24. It has informed the public on Facebook and with notices posted in the park itself.

The sign announcing The Bracebridge closure

A statement from the Butlers Arms said: “Unfortunately, we were made aware last night that one of our team members has tested positive for Covid-19. Thankfully, they are not seriously unwell.

“We have made the decision to close temporarily with immediate effect for the safety or our team and our guests.

“So far, no other members of the team have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test & Trace but we have decided to close as a precaution.”

You don’t have to be an epidemiologist to figure out they are just the first of many more to come as the virus runs amok throughout the population. Nearby Lichfield has already experienced several pub closures.

This commentator agrees that the country should continue with the gradual reopening, but opinion polls show that people are unhappy with the lifting of all measures and support continuing with face covering and the social distancing, whether it be two metres or ‘one metre plus.’

Sadly, those fears are being dismissed with ridiculous comments from government ministers about being on your own on long journeys on a train where you can take your face covering off and ‘expecting’ people to wear masks.

That might be OK for travelling first class back to your leafy constituency in Middle England, but doesn’t address the reality of the dangers of travel for the general public. Or the fact that many workers in hospitality could be in a constant on/off employment state without the necessary financial help to see them through this continuing nightmare.

Not to mention the actual businesses, like these venues, who have been clobbered hardest by the effects of the pandemic, with many forced to close permanently, while others teeter on the edge. They have the dilemma of self policing, balancing making a living against keeping customers and staff safe.

A reply to a my letter of concern about premature relaxation of all rules to local MP Andrew Mitchell received a reply which trotted out the same tired out lines.

I don’t often agree with Mr Mitchell, but admire his stance on foreign aid, in this case though we are miles apart.

In his reply, he said: “It is clear that we will need to learn to live with Covid and as Chris Whitty and others have outlined, continuing the restrictions beyond July 19 is unlikely to reduce the number of Covid deaths and could potentially lead to a worse peak in the winter months.”

Chris Whitty’s body language implied something else. England’s chief medical officer has warned that Covid hospitalisations were doubling every three weeks and could hit “scary numbers” in future.

Mr Mitchell continued: “Ultimately, although these are not easy decisions to make, I believe that we are now in a position where we can use our own judgement and common sense and I support this approach rather than continuing legal diktat.”

In other words, ‘it’s not our fault guv, blame the public for not using common sense.’ Unbelievable.

With the exception of the furlough scheme, the handling of the pandemic has been catastrophic, but one thing I think we can all agree on is that this is a long way from over.

Bill McCarthy

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