Australian pubs and bars are heading towards a winter of discontent with health experts predicting they will be amongst the last businesses to reopen once COVID-19 lockdown measures ease.
Due to the very nature of people gathering in large groups inside venues, it’s believed social distancing measures will be hard to maintain even though some aspects of society will have already returned to a level of normality.
Peter Collignon, a Professor of Microbiology at the Australian National University, told the Sydney Morning Herald: “Unfortunately I don’t think until September this year at the earliest. Winter is coming and that is our next big risk time – for all respiratory viruses, including this one.
“I think for a while longer with large intermingling groups inside, we need to play safe which is better than being very sorry afterwards.”
Also speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Julie Leask, Public Health Professor at the University of Sydney, said it was “hard to imagine a return to what we had with pubs for some time”.
But she offered some hope, adding: “If we keep living with COVID-19 for the foreseeable future, then we will need to accept a new kind of normal.
“It may be that there can be a compromise whereby elements of the pub life can return with a lot of limitations on numbers and distancing. But government would need to also believe it’s feasible to monitor and regulate that setup.”
Last week Prime Minister Scott Morrison said restrictions will be reviewed regularly and planning for the medium to long-term has begun. But he warned several conditions would have to be met before the relaxing of any conditions could take place.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt added to those comments, saying: “Restaurants, cafes and pubs will reopen when the health advice and government deem it safe to do so.”
He added: “Even when that decision is made, there may still be significant measures to maintain social distancing and to support good hygiene.”
And while Australia is consistently experiencing a reduction in new daily cases, many state leaders and officials have played down the likelihood of this resulting in the quick relaxation of restrictions.
Queensland’s Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said: “It’s too early to lift those restrictions now. We’ve had those lower case numbers, but not for that long. We’ve just got to keep working on it and see what the result is.”
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews warned against getting carried away with news his state was experiencing very low numbers of new cases.
“These numbers are not an invitation for us to simply remove all the rules,” he said “They’re a validation our strategy is working. It is challenging but it is working.
“These rules are challenging, very difficult but we have got to stay the course on this or it will get away from us. There will be no pulling it back. Tens of thousands of people with this virus, thousands in hospital and hundreds perhaps thousands of people will needlessly die.”
He added: “I don’t think it is possible to have cafes, restaurants and bars open anytime soon.”
While NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian did not specifically address hospitality venues re-opening, she stressed the need for restrictions to stay in place.
“Our focus remains in NSW on keeping the spread, stopping the spread, containing the spread, but also reducing the community to community transmission, that’s really important.
“Everybody has been doing really well, in the main, in terms of respecting the restrictions and we ask that to continue.
“Community to community is what can cause a flare up and that is why we have to stay vigilant, because when you stop trying hard it can spread very quickly and that’s the last thing we want.”
This article originally appeared on: TheShout