Forced to pour around 5 million liters of craft beer into the sewer due to lockdowns, British producers hope that this loss will be a thing of the past from Monday (12). After more than three months of closure, pubs in England will once again be able to serve abroad.
The taps won’t reopen until Monday, but since last week consumers, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, have been planning to make reservations, running out of seats.
Getting back to a pub or restaurant was the “top priority” for 50% of UK consumers, according to a survey by investment bank Jefferies, and bars reported to UK media they were sold out next week.
While some prepare the glasses, others frown: epidemiologists fear an increase in the numbers of Covid-19.
According to them, even with restrictions such as a maximum of six people per group, the distance between tables and the care provided by the waiters, it is necessary to monitor closely for infections so as not to lose the progress achieved so far.
The green light for England to move into the second phase of easing has been given, according to the government, as the country has passed the “four criteria”: a significant drop in the number of cases, the ability to serve the NHS ( public health), the continued progress of vaccination and the absence of variants of Covid-19 that are altering the dynamics of the pandemic.
Judging by the numbers, the contagion seems tame. Last Friday, Sage, the group that advises the government, reported that the contagion rate (Rt) in England is between 0.8 and 1.
This means that infections are at the same rate, at worst, or at best dropping by 4% every day – in which case the number of new infections would be halved in about two and a half weeks.
But transmission rates in England vary widely from region to region, says Kevin McConway, professor of applied statistics at the Open University, and the smaller or more irregular the number of new cases, the more inaccurate the statistical measures. .
The UK’s advance in the vaccination campaign – 60% of the population has received at least one dose – is no guarantee of pandemic control either, and not just because the vaccine’s effect on the transmission or duration of immunity is not yet known.
When it comes to pubs, the main problem is that younger people are the majority audience for bars, but they are not among the priority immune groups.
“There are reasons to stay in care longer,” said James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Multidisciplinary Research Institute at the University of Oxford, commenting on infectious data released on Friday (9).
He finds it encouraging that the number of people infected has dropped sharply among those over 50, more susceptible and already vaccinated. “But the virus is still present in 4 out of 1,000 people aged 35 to 49”.
Without physical distance, the scientist says, the infection can increase. ‘While we haven’t seen an impact on the proportion of deaths from infection, an increase in this age group, due to its size, would put a lot of stress on the NHS,’ he says .
Lawrence Young, professor at Warwick School of Medicine, adds another loophole in the fight against the pandemic: the fact that the screening, tracking and isolation system was not working well in the UK.
The government has launched a program of two free weekly tests per person starting this week, but it will be harmless if the infected do not isolate themselves.
An outbreak of infection among young people, a group that circulates more and tends to have more contact with more people, is also promoting the emergence of new mutants, according to Naismith of the University of Oxford. “The fewer infections there are, the less chance there is of variants.”
However, there is one aspect of the market that may alleviate the concerns of scientists. For starters, according to the British Beer and Pubs Association (BBPA), some 2,000 pubs in the UK broke down in 2020 due to lockdowns, a number that represents 5% of the total.
Of the 95% who still survive, only a third will return to service under current conditions, according to sector entities. The rest have no outdoor space or are less able to offset the necessary investments – umbrellas, heaters, furniture – and running costs.
Pubs without outdoor seating will be allowed to sell for travel, but the Society of Independent Breweries (Siba) says even those who can refill their cups on Monday will be left in an unstable situation. About a third of those who reopen will benefit from the scaled-down operation, says the organization, which represents 830 craft breweries.
Others risk opening up anyway to reconnect with their customers. The restaurants, bars and lodges are still part of a UK government aid program that involves supplementing employee wages with reduced hours, reducing consumption tax and funding at subsidized interest rates, but the return to invoicing is more and more urgent, say the entities.
In a lawsuit to anticipate the full opening of establishments, nightclub manager Sacha Lord said pubs, restaurants and nightclubs have invested more than £ 500million ($ 3.9 billion ) to strengthen security against contagion in its internal spaces.
“It makes more sense to open up these safe places, they are monitored and regulated, than to let people mingle where there are no measures in place,” Lord said in filing a lawsuit.
He mentions non-essential stores, which will be able to welcome consumers in closed spaces from this Monday, as well as services that require physical proximity, such as hairdressers and massage therapists.
While awaiting the court ruling, manufacturers’ associations have launched campaigns asking consumers to favor draft beer (“draft beer”, unpasteurized beer served in barrels, under pressure).
Beer sales have fallen 70% in the past 12 months in the country, depending on the industry, as it can practically only be served in bars.
“Draft beer and pubs go hand in hand and it’s this important part of our national identity that millions of beer lovers lost during the lockdown,” said James Calder, CEO of Siba.
Manufacturers claim that 80% of the income of small independent breweries comes from sales in pubs and that the barrel drink, which accounts for 70% of the total, has a much shorter shelf life – which wasted millions of liters while the bars were closed. .