As London restaurants reopen their dining rooms for the first time in 152 days, they are on step three of a four-step coronavirus lockdown roadmap.
The fourth stage has now been delayed from June 21 to July 19, due to the B.1.617.2 / Delta variant, first detected in India and reportedly capable of spreading to the UK But what does this new variant of coronavirus mean for restaurants, their workers and diners?
How serious is the arrival of this new variant of the Delta coronavirus?
References to “surges” and “spikes” suggest that this is very serious, but the data underlying them suggests that it is difficult to say. The Delta variant is now responsible for more than 95% of coronavirus cases in England.
But overall, cases, hospitalizations and deaths remain at their lowest levels since the summer of 2020. And because it is currently difficult to determine whether the Delta variant is inherently much more transmissible, helped and encouraged. by the social conditions in its current spread, or, most likely, a mixture of the two, it is difficult to determine its current severity.
Could this be as bad as the so-called Kent variant, B.1.1,7, which caused the most recent lockdown? If not, what is different?
Variant B.1.1.7 spread in the most devastating way before the start of the vaccination program, made worse by the three-month gap between its seeding and the government “announcing its discovery”. Now, the vaccination rollout is extending to those over 18, and cases of the Delta variant are significantly lower in the vaccinated age groups than the unvaccinated – the former also being the most at risk of disease. serious and death. While this does not greatly affect the ability of the Delta variant to spread, it should prevent the hospitalizations and deaths that devastated the country in the winter of 2020-2021 and put restaurants under quarantine.
All the evidence currently available shows that vaccines work very effectively against the Delta variant, and although some statistical models project major waves of hospitalizations and deaths, it is impossible to consider them without first knowing the statistical assumptions on which they work. They are often unfamiliar with the current mechanics of Covid-19, as some things – especially the impact of vaccines on transmission – are very difficult to model statistically. As with the impact on restaurants, as more real-world data comes in about B.1.617.2 / Delta, a clearer picture should emerge.
What does this mean for restaurants right now?
For restaurants, the main concern right now is that the prevalence of this variant is currently highest in unvaccinated age groups, the dominant demographic among hospitality workers, who have just returned to work at indoors, where they are most at risk for airborne coronavirus transmission. The government’s own report on the transmission of hospitality showed that, although low, the risk to workers is significantly higher than to diners, and being immediately seriously ill is not the only risk, the “long. Covid ”still being both widespread and not fully understood.
When will we know what this means for restaurants in the longer term?
All signs indicate that restaurants will be able to open at full capacity on July 19, 2021. Although this date is, according to most projections, near the peak of the current wave of coronavirus, the effectiveness of the vaccines is such that it does not happen. will not translate into fighting for the NHS.
Could this result in another nationwide lockdown or severe tiered restrictions that would close restaurants?
It is very unlikely. Ministers don’t want to rule it out because they’ve been burned with uncertainty too many times during the pandemic, but the government’s ‘four tests’ for the roadmap don’t include the number of cases, which – for now – is the only measurement being significantly affected by B.1.617.2 / the Delta variant. Any future action would likely not affect restaurant capacity and instead revolve around “vaccine passports” – which pose their own practical and philosophical problems.
What does a change to the lifting of restrictions on June 21 mean for restaurants?
Two coronavirus rules affect restaurants’ ability to trade: one meter plus social distancing requirements; and the rule of six. These rules protect both workers and diners and halve the number of covers inside a restaurant. As this continues beyond June 21, new calls have been made for the extension of support schemes designed to alleviate income losses due to these restrictions.