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Covid is experiencing a resurgence in Europe as the highly infectious delta variant spreads among the unvaccinated and partially immune population, which is predominantly young because it was the last to receive a vaccine.
At the same time, a number of European countries have decided to revive their nighttime economies, allowing bars and clubs to reopen to the public, some after 16 months of closure that have put many people out of business.
In England, nightclubs were allowed to reopen as the clock struck Sunday at midnight with thousands of revelers soaking up the lights, music and the lack of face masks and social distancing. Experts are already warning that England’s move is risky, especially as other countries that reopened before it have closed shop (or club) again.
Nightclubs in the Netherlands reopened on June 26 but the government quickly regretted the decision, making a U-turn two weeks later, closing them again on July 10 as Covid cases increased in the country , especially among young people. More than 1,000 Covid infections were linked to a music festival in the Dutch city of Utrecht earlier in July.
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Having to close the doors of his club until August 13, Melkweg, a venue in Amsterdam, called the decision a “boring decision” but said that “due to the growing number of infections, we think we can’t not yet guarantee a safe environment for the public, employees and artists.
Lawrence Young, a virologist and professor of molecular oncology at Warwick Medical School at the British University of Warwick, told CNBC on Wednesday that the country’s experience was a warning to England.
“If you look at the data from the Netherlands, it’s pretty clear that it was this nightclub scene that fueled this rate of infection. It’s clear that openness, as they’ve done, especially with the Nighttime Economy, has been a real driver to massive levels of infection. They saw an eight-fold increase [in cases] in a week and most concern 18-29 year olds, ”he noted.
“I don’t mean to sound unhappy but when you look at the pictures of England at the turn of midnight [when clubs reopened on Sunday] it’s really scary and for me it’s really inevitable that we have to reintroduce restrictions of some description, ”he said, when there were 18-30 year olds not yet vaccinated or fully immunized .
The virus “is not conquered”
In June, the government announced its intention to allow Spain’s 17 regions to reopen their sites in time for the summer season. But with strict rules attached; clubs could only stay open until 3 a.m., the number of people allowed at venues would be limited (depending on the Covid situation in the region) and restrictions would remain in place until the Spain achieves a vaccination rate of 70%.
A handful of regions opposed the move at the time, but others went ahead, reopening their clubs around the weekend of June 26. Much like the Netherlands, however, cases have skyrocketed among young people and several regions have taken the unilateral step of closing the sites again. Now there are a myriad of different rules on closing times, curfews and capacity across Spain, local media report.
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Gustavo Ferrer, co-owner and manager of Barcelona’s Macarena Club, which had to close earlier in July, told CNBC on Thursday that having to close “has been very difficult for us, we’ve been closed for many months.”
The order to close was all the more frustrating, he said, because “we thought that the authorities had studied the situation well and had everything under control, but it was not like that and after two weeks we had to close again ”.
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Ferrer said the Macarena hopes to reopen in mid-August or early September with vaccine passports and antigen testing a way to get the industry back on its feet.
The British government announced earlier this week that it plans to make Covid vaccination compulsory for fans of nightclubs and other crowded places in England from the end of September. It drew criticism from the industry, including Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, who commented on Twitter on Tuesday: “So ‘Freedom Day’ for clubs lasted around 17 hours at the time. “
Doctors are worried
Chris Lutterodt, a doctor and spokesperson for the Healthcare Workers Foundation charity, told CNBC that the link between nightlife and Covid infections was evident given that it is “more difficult to maintain social distancing and to apply rules in this context, in particular when alcohol comes into play ”.
“As a generalist [general practitioner] I have seen a lot of young people mainly coming forward after catching Covid for advice and support. This reflects what we are seeing with an increase in the number of infections primarily affecting young people. I have seen patients who have attended stag and hen parties over the past weekends where a significant proportion of them have developed Covid and, in one case, 6 of the 8 participants ”, did he declare.
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“We have to remember that people who were recently vaccinated with the first dose may not have sufficient immunity to protect them against the capture of Covid-19. It is important to follow government advice and social distancing measures, if any, to stop the spread. “
As it stands, however, he added that he was concerned that a reopening of the clubs would create “the perfect storm for an increase in cases and subsequent hospitalizations, especially in the fall months and more. winter when we know the NHS (the National Health Service) is usually under enormous pressure. “