Day: 12 April 2021

Brits Celebrate the Reopening Of Shops and Pub Gardens

Finally, some good news for pubs! The unpredictable weather has not stopped Brits from visiting shops and pubs this afternoon, as the Government’s lockdown was partially eased. BBC News has the story.

For the first time in months, pub gardens, shops and hairdressers have reopened in England, as rules were also eased in the rest of the UK.

Shoppers flocked to the High Street, with long queues seen outside some retailers. Other people took advantage of England’s gyms and zoos reopening.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged everyone to “behave responsibly”.

Northern Ireland’s “stay-at-home” order is ending and some rules are being eased in Scotland and Wales.

The PM had planned to have a celebratory pint to mark the measures easing, but that has been postponed following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh on Friday. …

Scott Westlake, landlord of the Myrtle Tavern in Leeds, said the pub had received 5,000 bookings over the next month for his new outside eating and drinking area.

Mr Westlake said: “If the weather’s good, I think most people are optimistic and excited.

“Atmosphere, ambience, seeing your mates, I think they (customers) are looking forward to that more than anything – and they’ll sit in a blizzard for the first few days at least.”

Nicholas Hair, landlord and owner of the Kentish Belle pub in Bexleyheath, south-east London, said there was a “sense of celebration” in the early hours of Monday as it opened to midnight customers. 

“I’m hoping that this is a sort of rebirth, and that we are reopen for the foreseeable,” he said.

It’s not been smooth sailing for all pubs, however. A pub in Coventry is currently being investigated by the local council because hundreds of people queued outside before it opened at midnight. BBC News reports:

Darren Lee, owner of the Oak Inn, said 260 customers were seated in groups of up to six at its outside tables – but 300 to 400 people were turned away.

He said crowds at the Gosford Street pub were “very well behaved” and police were satisfied with the situation.

However, Coventry City Council said it was investigating to see whether it followed rules.

BBC News’ report on the reopening of the hospitality industry is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Tesco has urged people to go to the pub, given how tough it has been for the hospitality industry over the past year.

50% Of People Vaccinated In Wales

Wales has become the first UK nation to give a first dose of Covid vaccine to half of its population. The country is also leading the way in its rollout of second doses, with one in six now fully vaccinated against Covid. The Guardian has the story.

Some 1.59 million people had received a first jab by April 11th, according to figures from Public Health Wales, which is the equivalent of 50.4% of the population. 

The other nations are a short way behind, with Scotland up to 48.8%, England on 48.2% and Northern Ireland at 43.6%. 

Wales was the first nation of the UK to roll out the Moderna vaccine, with the first batch given last week. Scotland has also started using the Moderna jab, and England is due to follow later this month. 

Wales is also leading the field for second doses, with the equivalent of 16.8% of its total population – or one in six – fully vaccinated against Covid. 

England is some way behind on 11.3%, followed by Scotland on 10.8% and Northern Ireland on 10.5%. 

Despite the success of its vaccine rollout, Wales hasn’t yet allowed hospitality businesses to open. They remain closed, including out of doors, until April 26th.

Worth reading in full.

NHS Test and Trace App Update Blocked For Breaking Privacy Rules

A software update to the NHS Test and Trace app – which was scheduled to coincide with the partial reopening of pubs and restaurants – has been blocked by Apple and Google because it breaks rules about the collection of location data. Sky News has the story.

As coronavirus lockdown measures were eased across the UK from midnight, the NHS Covid app was meant to include a new feature that would have allowed users – once they had tested positive – to upload the list of all venues they had checked in to using a QR code.

But this form of location tracking has been explicitly prohibited on privacy grounds by Apple and Google, who collaborated together to design the exposure notification system used on all iOS and Android devices.

Public health authorities around the world that signed up to the exposure notification system have agreed to never use it to collect location data, but this was what Apple and Google considered would have happened under the update to the app.

ITPro reports that the app “must comply with the regulations due to it being based on the decentralised API model developed by Apple and Google, which stores the information collected through the app on users’ devices and only shares a limited amount of data with epidemiologists monitoring the pandemic”. Before settling with the API model, the Government considered setting up a centralised tracing app, but the idea received criticism from digital rights campaigners over the suggestion that this would hold on to personal health data for up to two decades.

A spokesperson for the Department for Health and Social Care said that the update has merely been “delayed” by this block.

The deployment of the [enhanced check-in] functionality of the NHS Covid app to enable users to upload their venue history has been delayed.

This does not impact the functionality of the app and we remain in discussions with our partners to provide beneficial updates to the app which protect the public.

As venues begin to open up we encourage everyone who can to use the enhanced venue check-in process, which includes advising users to book a test if they attend venues where multiple people have tested positive.

All customers at pubs, restaurants and cafes must provide contact details (either written or via the NHS Test and Trace app) on entry.

The Sky News report is worth reading in full.

Dutch Students “Made Little or No Progress While Learning From Home”, Study Concludes

Despite the fact that children face practically no risk from COVID-19, many countries closed schools in an attempt to suppress the epidemic. What effect did this have on children’s learning? According to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it may have had a sizeable negative effect.

The study was based on data from the Netherlands, where national examinations take place twice a year: first in January and then again in June. Because last year’s lockdown happened to take place between the two examinations, the authors were able to compare students’ progress in 2020 to their progress in previous years.

This is a more robust method than simply comparing students’ post-lockdown performance to their performance in previous years, since it controls for any changes that may have occurred within the school system between 2019 and 2020. For example, the students enrolled in 2020 might be slightly different from those enrolled in 2019.  

The authors looked at math, spelling and reading scores, as well as a composite measure of all three, for students aged 8 to 11. Comparing scores between January and June, they found that students made considerably less progress in 2020 than in each of the three preceding years. Here’s one of their charts:

The learning loss was equivalent to one-fifth of a school year (roughly eight weeks), which means that students made essentially no progress under lockdown. In addition, the effect was 60% larger among students from less-educated homes, confirming that the costs of lockdown have fallen disproportionately on the working class.

As the authors note, their findings arguably reflect a “best-case scenario”, given that the Netherlands combines equitable school funding with high levels of broadband access, and the country’s lockdown only lasted eight weeks. Learning losses in other countries were probably even greater.

Stop Press: The authors of the study say their conclusions are applicable to English primary school children too.

Snow, Sleet and Freezing Temperatures Hit UK as Pub Beer Gardens Reopen

As if Government restrictions around the reopening of pubs and restaurants weren’t onerous enough, customers in many parts of the UK will have to endure snow, sleet and single-digit temperatures if they want to enjoy their “freedoms” outdoors. The Met has forecast sunshine in some areas, but “wet and wintry” weather elsewhere.

The Guardian has the story.

The lifting of lockdown restrictions to allow people in England to use pub beer gardens and dine in the outdoor areas of restaurants is being met by snowfall, as a spring cold snap hits.

The inclement weather will come as a blow to thousands of businesses that were hoping to welcome back customers on Monday after months of restrictions.

Met Office forecasters said southern England and much of Wales could expect outbreaks of rain, sleet and some snow, although this was predicted to clear through the morning, leaving sunny intervals and scattered showers.

Elsewhere in the UK, people were told to expect sunny periods and isolated wintry showers. The Met Office said temperatures were not expected to rise beyond single figures celsius. …

A number of pubs with 24-hour licences opened as soon as they were allowed. The Kentish Belle in south-east London opened at one minute past midnight on Monday until 3am. In Newcastle, the Switch bar and the Bank did the same, despite temperatures dropping below freezing.

Boris Johnson said people should enjoy the new freedoms but remain wary of the risks. In a message hailing the latest stage of lockdown lifting, the Prime Minister said: “Today is a major step forward in our roadmap to freedom as venues such as shops, hairdressers, nail salons, outdoor attractions, and pubs and restaurants open once again.”

The Prime Minister has stressed the importance of “fresh air” as a preventative measure against Covid. We’ve certainly got plenty of that. But with nearly 40 million people vaccinated and a steep decline in Covid cases – the fastest decline in the world – why can’t our reopening go at least one step further and allow hospitality venues to open indoors?

The Guardian’s report is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A photo of two customers at a bistro in Surrey eating outdoors this morning illustrates the “new reality” of outdoor dining.

News Round Up