Coronavirus: Pubs to become quieter as government guidance urges drinkers to keep voices down

Shouting increases potential for ‘aerosol transmission’ of Covid-19

Kate Ng
Wednesday 24 June 2020 15:47 BST
Boris Johnson announces that pubs, restuarants and hairdressers will be allowed to open on 4 July

The days of shouting over loud music to chat to someone else in a bar may be over, after the government issued new guidance advising venues to avoid environments that may encourage shouting or raised voices.

Pubs, as well as restaurants, bars and other similar venues in England, should “ensure that steps are taken to avoid people needing to unduly raise their voices at each other” because of the potential for increased risk of Covid-19 transmission through small droplets.

“This includes, but is not limited to, refraining from playing music or broadcasts that may encourage shouting, including if played at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult,” said the guidance.

“This is because of the potential for increased risk of transmission, particularly from aerosol transmission. We will develop further guidance, based on scientific evidence, to enable these activities as soon as possible.”

The government issued new guidance for pubs and restaurants on Tuesday. They are allowed to reopen from 4 July but must ensure they are “Covid-secure” to protect staff and patrons.

Social distancing of one metre or more must be observed and venues are advised not to permit live performances to “mitigate the risks of aerosol transmission” from both the performers and the audience.

Covid-19 is transmitted through respiratory droplets, produced from a person’s mouth and nose when speaking, coughing or sneezing.

Other guidance for pubs and restaurants in England include increasing hand-washing and surface-cleaning, installing screens or barriers to separate employees from one another and from customers and points of service, and avoiding face-to-face meetings whenever possible.

Condiment jars and bottles usually found on tables will also disappear, as the government encourages venues to provide disposable alternatives.

Boris Johnson told the Commons that people would be encouraged to use “mitigation” such as face masks, but “where it is possible to keep two metres apart, people should”.

However, proposals for venues to record contact details of all customers in order to support the new test and trace system have raised concerns, with critics calling for guarantees the data will not be shared more widely.

Trade bodies have called for clarification from the government on how the proposed data collection would work. A spokesperson for the Information Commissioner’s Office said: “The ICO is assessing the potential data protection implications of this proposed scheme and is monitoring developments.”

New guidance has also been released for hotels, campsites and caravan parks, which can reopen from 4 July but must keep closed any shared facilities where social distancing cannot be practised. This includes dormitories, guest kitchens and communal spaces such as TV rooms.

In addition, close contact services including hairdressers and barbershops can reopen but they must operate an appointment-only system.

Establishments are also encouraged to ask clients “Covid-19 related screening questions” ahead of their appointment to determine if they are experiencing symptoms of the virus.

“If the client has any of these symptoms, however mild, they should stay at home and reschedule their appointment,” the government advises.

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