Republic of Ireland to Introduce Midnight Curfew For Hospitality Venues

From Friday, restaurants, nightclubs, and pubs will have to shut their doors at midnight due to a state-enforced curfew intended to curb a rise in Covid cases. Other restrictions will also come into effect by the end of week, such as vaccine passport measures for cinemas and theatres. Sky News has the story.

So-called Covid passes (proof of vaccination), which are already required for indoor hospitality, will now also be needed to go to a cinema or theatre. Gyms and hair salons will continue to be exempt from this requirement.

The public will also be urged to work from home again unless it is absolutely necessary for them to go to the office or workplace.

The midnight curfew is being seen as a major blow to the hospitality sector in the run-up to the Christmas party season.

The industry had only just returned to some semblance of normality, with a previous curfew of 11.30pm removed at the end of October.

Reacting to the move, the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, which represents around 4,000 Irish publicans, said: “the news that restricted trading hours are set to be reintroduced is a hugely disappointing development for the many late-night pubs and night clubs many of whom will now be forced to shut just three weeks after reopening.”

The body’s Chief Executive, Padraig Cribben, said: “the decision to introduce a new closing time of midnight will effectively close many late-night pubs and nightclubs.

“It will also seriously restrict other outlets at the most critical time of the year.”

Publicans are now calling for discontinued state financial supports for affected businesses to be reintroduced.

The Government has been forced to take action after infection rates soared in recent weeks.

Worth reading in full.

Early Closure of Bars and Restaurants Had No Impact on the Spread of Covid in Japan

When comparing the impact of Covid in different countries, Japan is a clear outlier. In 2020, the country had zero days of mandatory business closures and zero days of mandatory stay-at-home orders. Despite seeing less change in mobility than major European countries, Japan has not had any excess mortality since the pandemic began.

As you may recall, the country hosted the Summer Olympics between 23rd July and 8th August. But even that did not lead to a large number of deaths. It has been suggested that Japanese people, and perhaps East Asians in general, have some degree of prior immunity to the virus.

In January of this year, Japan introduced restrictions on businesses for the first time. Specifically, 11 prefectures (including the capital, Tokyo) prohibited bars and restaurants from selling alcohol after 7pm, and forced them to close at 8pm.

In a recent preprint, Reo Takaku and colleagues investigated the impact of these measures on the spread of Covid. They began by checking whether the measures had their intended effect – of reducing the number of people frequenting bars and restaurants. This cannot be taken for granted: the night curfew in Greece had virtually no impact on mobility.

The researchers analysed survey data collected in the autumn of 2020 (when there were no restrictions in place) and the winter of 2021 (when there were restrictions in place). As the chart below indicates, the measures do appear to have had their intended effects.

The x-axis represents how far respondents lived from the border of a prefecture that introduced restrictions. The blue and green lines (corresponding to the right-hand y-axis) show the fraction of people who went to a bar or restaurant at least once in the relevant month.

The blue line corresponds to the autumn of 2020, and the green line corresponds to the winter of 2021. Notice that the green line is substantially flatter than the blue line, but only on the right-hand side of the chart. This suggests that restrictions did reduce the number of people frequenting bars and restaurants.

France Easing Lockdown Restrictions Earlier Than Expected

France is bringing forward the lifting of a nationwide curfew by 10 days amid falling numbers of daily positive Covid tests. Guidelines on mask-wearing are also expected to be eased sooner than expected. The MailOnline has the story.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Jean Castex told a news conference on Wednesday that the night-time curfew would now end from June 20th, and that face masks would soon no longer be required outdoors.

After restaurants, bars and cafes were allowed last week to reopen indoors for the first time in seven months, Castex said life in France was at last starting to return to normal.

“We’re on the right track – let’s keep up our efforts,” Castex said. “The health situation is improving faster than we had anticipated, everywhere in mainland France.” …

The [Delta] variant accounts for the bulk of new infections in Britain, but French Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Tuesday it only represented 2-4% of confirmed cases in France…

Castex said pressure on French hospitals had decreased significantly. The number of people in intensive care units was down by 116 to 1,952 on Tuesday, according to health ministry data.

France’s seven-day moving average of new cases, which was above 40,000 two months ago, stood at 3,500 on Tuesday. French health experts say the pandemic can be considered under control if the rate is below 5,000.

Worth reading in full.

Night Curfew May Have Increased the Spread of COVID-19 in Greece

During the pandemic, many countries have imposed night curfews in an attempt to reduce the spread of COVID-19. How successful have these measures been? According to a recent study, they may have actually increased transmission. 

Sotiris Georganas and colleagues took advantage of a natural experiment in Greece whereby the timing of night curfew shifted in one region but not in another. While a 9pm curfew had been in place throughout the country since November of 2020, a 6pm weekend curfew was introduced on 6th February in the Attica region (which includes Athens).

The authors used Google mobility data to examine how time spent at home, and time spent at groceries/pharmacies, changed in the Attica region and the Epirus and Western Macedonia region (where the timing of night curfew did not shift). Specifically, they examined mobility data in each region in the five weekends before the shift, as well as the four weekends after.

What did the authors find? Compared to the Epirus & Western Macedonia region, the Attica region saw a small and statistically significant increase in time spent at home, as well as a small and non-significant decrease in time spent at groceries/pharmacies. In other words, the shift in the timing of night curfew had – at best – a marginal impact on mobility.

Given that the shift reduced the time available for shopping by three full hours (a change of almost 20%), the overall effect will have been to increase crowding – by concentrating roughly the same amount of shopping into a shorter time period. As a consequence, it may well have led to a rise in transmission. 

In the authors’ words, “As more people were present simultaneously in high-risk places such as supermarkets, the early curfew backfired.” This finding suggests that governments should focus on protecting care homes and hospitals, rather than trying to control the epidemic by tweaking people’s shopping habits.