Berlin (CNN) – With Europe now reporting more coronavirus cases than the United States, Brazil and India, according to data from the World Health Organization, many governments are closing pubs and bars or limiting their opening hours in hopes of avoiding more blockages. wide.
It’s bad news for drinkers, from Brussels to Paris to Edinburgh, and will bring more pain to the struggling hospitality industry. But will the strategy work?
In Berlin – a city famous for its nightlife – bars remain open but the new rules that come into effect on Saturday mean they will have to close at 1
No more than five people will be able to gather in a group from 11pm. at 6 am and no more than 10 people at a time will be able to attend meetings indoors. The measures are expected to remain in place at least until the end of October.
For Stefan Zenow, the 41-year-old owner of two Berlin bars, one in the popular party district of Friedrichshain and another in Prenzlauer Berg, the new restrictions are an unwelcome blow.
His once profitable business is struggling to stay afloat after Germany’s blockade earlier this year, he says, and could shut down entirely without further state aid.
“This takes us 10 steps back,” he said. “We have a minus sign on our books every month, but we wanted it to continue to work. Now, with these new restrictions we are no longer sure we can. I believe this curfew will be in effect until at least March or April next year.” ‘
He’s thinking of opening early to try and get the deals he can.
” Usually during the summer we open at 20:00. and are open until the last customer leaves. Typically in winter we open at 19:00. But now with the curfew in place, we plan to open at 5pm. so that the people who work can have a drink on their way home. It’s a model Australia already has in place, but I’m not sure it will really work for a city like Berlin. ”
Zenow is also skeptical that the restrictions will work.
“It’s a human need to be together, to celebrate together. I don’t think people like to be told what they can’t do – from my point of view they will continue to celebrate. Banning controlled parties won’t help! You can’t tell young people in their 20s. and 30 years of quitting partying. I think the new law could have a negative impact. People will then meet privately to celebrate. ”
But Health Minister Jens Spahn warned Thursday that it was not the time for Germany to let their guard down.
“So far almost no other country in Europe has been able to handle the crisis. But we don’t have to bet on what we’ve achieved,” he said.
“The situation here in Berlin shows that reckless and sometimes ignorant behavior during this pandemic can quickly change the situation for the worse.”
Brussels closes the bars for a month
Other nations are taking more drastic measures as they try to balance economic needs with increasing pressure on health services.
Bars and cafes in Belgium’s capital Brussels were ordered to close on Thursday for a month in an effort to curb the rise in infection rates.
Professional and amateur sports clubs also have to close their bars for a month and the consumption of alcohol in public spaces is banned throughout the Brussels city region, its minister-president Rudi Vervoort announced Wednesday.
Brussels now “holds the position of the second most affected European capital between Madrid and Paris,” with 505 cases per 100,000 citizens, official Yves Van Laethem said during a coronavirus briefing.
The move came a day after stricter restrictions were imposed on some 11.5 million people in the country. People in Belgium now have to limit their social contacts to three people per month, with private indoor meetings limited to four people. Outdoor meetings are limited to four people, excluding those living in the same household. Cafes and restaurants cannot serve more than four people per table and must close their doors by 11pm.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said the restrictions were designed to “avoid a general lockdown” amid a “very worrying” evolution in the spread of the pandemic.
As coronavirus cases rise dramatically in neighboring France, bars and cafes in the capital, Paris, have been ordered to close on Tuesday for two weeks. Restaurants there can only stay open if they follow strict hygiene and social distancing rules, the health ministry said.
People are drinking outside in a Soho bar in central London on 23 September.
TOLGA AKMEN / AFP / Getty Images
People have a drink while sitting on the terrace of a bar in the French capital, Paris, on October 3, 2020.
CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT / AFP / Getty Images
Four other cities – Lille, Lyon, Grenoble and Saint-Etienne – have been asked to close their bars, gyms and sports centers since Saturday as France reported a record 18,746 new infections on Thursday. Infection levels in Toulouse and Montpellier are “worrying” and could be the next cities to face new restrictions, Health Minister Olivier Veran said.
Bars in Marseille, on the Mediterranean coast of France, had already closed last month due to rising case rates.
On Friday, stricter restrictions against the coronavirus also came into effect in the Spanish capital, Madrid and surrounding cities. The new restrictions require people to stay at home except to go to work, to class, to take exams, to fulfill legal obligations, or in extreme circumstances.
Shops, bars and restaurants must reduce their capacity by 50%, offer only table service and close earlier. Bars and restaurants must close at 11pm, with last admission one hour before closing time.
Iceland, which came close to eliminating the virus over the summer, is also now seeing increased infections. On Monday, he ordered the closure of bars for two weeks across the country, as well as nightclubs, fitness centers, and gaming establishments and meetings limited to 20 people.
Global health expert Peter Drobac, director of the Skoll Center for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, told CNN that governments across Europe are trying to strike a balance between imposing restrictions on social interactions and keeping businesses alive.
Bars, nightclubs and restaurants are “an obvious candidate” for closure given what is known about transmission of the virus, he said.
“It tends to happen, and most of the major clusters we’ve seen come in closed, interior spaces that are crowded and have prolonged contact between people,” he said. People who talk, laugh, and drink alcohol only increase the risk of transmission, he said.
“We have to think about social value and social cost as we think about what we want to keep open and what we want to close. It involves some really difficult trade-offs but, if you have to choose between keeping bars or schools open, most people would choose schools.” .
A bar terrace is closed at Parvis de Saint-Gilles in Brussels on 7 October.
HATIM KAGHAT / BELGA MAG / AFP / Getty Images
On 2 October, a security guard measures the temperature of customers in a bar in Liverpool, in the north west of England.
OLI SCARFF / AFP / Getty Images
No alcohol indoors in Scottish pubs
Scotland is another country that has been imposing strict limits on the service of alcoholic beverages since Friday, as it fights rising rates of infection.
Pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants will not be allowed to serve alcohol indoors for 16 days, Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced Wednesday. They will also have to close at 18:00, except for hotel restaurants serving residents.
Authorized premises will still be able to serve alcohol outside until the current curfew of 10pm. in part of the country. However, in central parts of Scotland, including Glasgow and Edinburgh, all licensed venues will be closed from Friday, with the exception of hotel restaurants serving residents.
Sturgeon said the restrictions were “intended as short and sharp actions to stop a worrying increase in infections.” But the Scottish Licensed Trade Association warned of the confusion, describing the guide as “chaos” in a tweet on Friday.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson may also decide to introduce tougher measures in parts of England, particularly the north, where infection rates are on the rise.
Dr Julian Tang, honorary associate professor of respiratory sciences at the University of Leicester, told the UK’s Science Media Center that while some restrictions, such as 10pm. the curfew, it might seem arbitrary, the point was to reduce the number of contacts between people.
“He’s not saying the virus stops transmitting after 10pm. It only acts to disperse people earlier to reduce the number of people it can spread to,” Tang said.
“But to be effective, the spirit of the curfew must be upheld after people leave pubs – and not for people to go to supermarkets and other people’s homes to continue drinking (or) socializing, but to go home safely. in a socially spaced way to help stop further transmission of the virus. “
It is important to allow time for the restrictions to work, Tang added, and it may take three to four weeks before their impact can be properly assessed. However, it may be too little, too late, he cautioned.
“With Covid-19 cases increasing so rapidly among the population now, such limited restrictions may not be enough to reduce further transmission of the virus within this shorter time frame and, unfortunately, stronger measures may be needed.” .
Drobac also warned that a very cautious and gradual approach could backfire.
“Early action is typically the way to go because exponential growth can’t be overcome,” he said. “The longer we tinker with small steps with outsized growth in cases, the harder it is to keep things under control.”
CNN’s Laura Smith-Spark wrote and reported from London and Nadine Schmidt from Berlin. CNN’s Niamh Kennedy, Simon Cullen, Amy Cassidy, Frederik Pleitgen, Gaëlle Fournier, Fanny Bobille, Schams Elwazer and Arnaud Siad contributed to this report.