Coronavirus lockdown: why can’t some companies reopen in England?


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Pubs but not clubs, hairdressers but not nail salons. The planned changes to the coronavirus lockdown in England on July 4 have left many businesses wondering why they couldn’t reopen yet, but others could.

The government has not clarified exactly how it made its decisions, but what could be the reasons why some companies should remain closed and others open?

Pubs and discos

Pubs, bars and restaurants are expected to reopen, but nightclubs will remain closed.

“The whole operation of a nightclub brings people together,” says virologist Dr. Chris Smith. Compare that with pubs, where “the whole philosophy is not to dance with people, mate and date.” A nightclub with the 1m social distance rule would have a “zero atmosphere”.

The difference could also be related to noise. Loud music in clubs forces people to speak louder or shout. When people speak louder or sing, they produce more respiratory droplets, say experts in the government’s Scientific Emergency Advisory Group. These droplets are thrown into the air for inhalation by other people – which means the risk of spreading the virus is higher.

Add to that the possibility that if people dance in a club and breathe faster, they could potentially inhale more of these droplets. The song point may have arisen from Sage’s observation that at least two outbreaks are associated with choir rehearsals.

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The government’s own council urges all companies to avoid playing music that could force people to speak louder or shout to communicate. Live music or comedy is not allowed anywhere.

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Hairdressers v tattoo parlors / nail salons / spas

All of these trades are considered “close contact services” and very few are allowed to reopen. Hairdressers and barbers are an exception.

The “highest risk area” is the area in front of someone’s face, says the government, and companies that need staff to be in this area for most of the appointment (makeup, spa or beauty services, for example) should not reopen. Tattoo parlors say it is frustrating to have to stay closed – especially since they have long been required to have measures in place to prevent cross-contamination.

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But “touching people is definitely a risk factor,” said Dr. Shaun Fitzgerald, visiting professor of civil engineering at the University of Cambridge. “Wherever people touch each other, it is a known risk factor for transmission. ”

Dr. Fitzgerald – who also sits on Sage – says that the position in which people congregate is also a factor that can increase your risk.

“Even at a distance of 2 meters, it is better not to be face to face, but face to back, back to back or side by side. ”

There are large and small particles that come from people’s airways, he explains. Smaller particles persist in the air – with a higher concentration around someone’s face – but the larger ones are “like ballistics” and are thrown forward.

This could be one of the reasons why hairdressers – who can mostly stand behind or next to a client – are allowed to open first.

Virologist Dr. Smith adds: “When you come in for nail care, your hands are on the table, you are leaning forward … you have to get very close to this person, face to face. ”

It also assesses the value of hairdressers compared to others. “Your life does not depend on the tattoo [or your nails done]. But if you don’t cut your hair … you could even lose your job. ”

Outdoor and indoor gymnasiums

People can go to outdoor gymnasiums to exercise, but indoor gymnasiums and dance studios will remain closed for now – though the ministers suggested they could reopen in late July. The rationale is ventilation: the more fresh air there is, the lower the concentration of virus particles.

“If you bring fresh air into space, the dirty air leaves space,” says Dr. Fitzgerald. The virus is taken outside where it will be found in a “ridiculously low concentration”.

But what about the gym and exercise?

A study in Norway looked at whether people who went to the gym were at higher risk for coronavirus than those who did not. Although small, the study found no increased risk for gymnastics enthusiasts and the country has since reopened all indoor gymnasiums, but with social distancing in place.

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Dr. Fitzgerald says he has seen no data to suggest that dancing or running on a treadmill increases transmission.

But from the data he has seen, there is a link between viral particles and respiratory rate. If you breathe faster, the risk of spreading or getting the virus may be higher.

And can sweat spread the virus? “We don’t think so,” says Dr. Smith.

Amusement arcades against casinos

The decision to keep the casinos closed but to reopen the gambling halls and bingo halls has been described as “inconsistent” by the Betting and Gaming Council, which represents the casinos. Could ventilation be a factor, with many waterfront entertainment arcades having open facades, or the fact that in casinos, people are handling cards and chips? Or could it be related to the average time spent in such places?

“You are much closer to people, face to face, lots of games, it is very, very difficult to distance yourself and play cards socially,” says Dr. Smith.

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Dr. Fitzgerald says that the length of stay in a place with an infected person increases the risk. It is unlikely that someone will inhale a small virus particle and become infected, he said. Instead, there is usually a threshold of viral particles that you need to reach before you get sick.

“You know the risk will increase as you breathe in. If you can reduce the time you spend nearby, it will reduce your risk. “

Cinemas and theaters

Cinemas, theaters and concert halls are allowed to open – but, especially for the last two, without any live performance. The government says the ban on theater, comedy or live music aims to “mitigate the risk of aerosol transmission – by the performer (s) or their audience”. One suggestion was to set up a clear screen between the cast and the audience.

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Media captionHow cinemas will reopen after locking

“When you’re in the theater, the artists dance, sing and will produce more aerosols,” said Dr. Smith.

In examining corporate security with a one-meter rule, the government made a distinction between cinemas and cinemas, saying that “more work may be needed to mitigate the risks” in theaters. But the reasons for opening some businesses and not others may not be entirely related to the virus.

“Reopening each additional business increases the risk of coronavirus transmission,” said Dr. Gemma Tetlow, chief economist at the Institute for Government think tank. “There is a trade-off between the health risks and the economic benefits you get from reopening.

“The government may have made the decision that in reality people’s mental well-being and the British economy are really helped by the opening of pubs and cinemas, but in reality theaters do not offer such benefits . Or maybe they provide benefits to different groups of people. ”

“The government may be particularly concerned about the mental health of people in overcrowded and built-up urban areas … so you may want to open certain types of social places in preference to others.”


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