Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Anti-alcohol academic wants pub booze ban

Last May, the Scottish government gave £500,000 of taxpayers money to Niamh Fitzgerald to do some research into how pubs could safely reopen. Fitzgerald is no stranger to taxpayers money. In October, she was given £1.1 million by the National Institute for Health Research to study the effects of pub opening hours on ambulance call outs. She has also had money from the Scottish government to study minimum pricing.

If you're familiar with the SNP's attitude towards alcohol, you won't be surprised to hear that she is a keen advocate of minimum pricing and not too keen on the sale of booze. She is the director of the Institute for Social Marketing, the old stomping ground of the fanatic Gerard Hastings, and is deputy director of SPECTRUM, which was set up in 2019 as a research institute but which rapidly became yet another state-funded lobby group. 
The fruits of Fitzgerald's labour were published today, conveniently overshadowing the news that alcohol consumption fell in Scotland during lockdown
Pubs might need curfews and alcohol bans to stop Covid spreading, experts warn
Pubs might not be able to prevent Covid from spreading without curfews or alcohol bans, warn scientists.

A team of Scottish researchers examined Covid-19 measures in licensed premises last summer and found some worrying "pinch points" which could see the infection spread.

They say blanket closures, curfews or alcohol sale bans could be more likely to be deemed necessary to control the spread.

Who could have guessed that a neo-temperance campaigner who come to such a conclusion? Scotland has already experimented with alcohol-free pubs during the pandemic. It didn't work well for the pubs or their customers, but the 'public health' lobby rather liked it. The fact that pubs cannot survive without selling alcohol is of no concern to academics.
The study used to justify this preordained conclusion involved interviews with some people from the hospitality industry and a spying mission in 29 premises when the pubs reopened in the summer. The researchers found a number of transgressions which they list sombrely, including 'customer mixing and overcrowding in toilet areas' and 'a brief bit of singing' during a football match. 
They conclude:

Despite efforts on the part of premises, and detailed guidance from government, potentially significant risks of COVID-19 transmission persisted in a substantial minority of observed bars, especially when customers were intoxicated. Blanket closures, curfews, or alcohol sales bans are more likely to be deemed necessary if such risks cannot be acceptably, quickly, and cost-effectively reduced through support and sanctions for premises operators.

Normally we rely on bodies like Trading Standards to see how well regulations are being adhered to. One benefit of using nationwide data from such organisations is that we get a more accurate picture than if we rely on anti-alcohol academics having a mooch around a handful of boozers. 
Of course, rules and guidelines will sometimes be breached, as they are everywhere from time to time. It is almost impossible to remain two metres apart from everyone in a supermarket, for example, but nobody is suggesting they be banned from selling food.
The fact remains that there is very little evidence that hospitality venues are a major source of infection. If they were, you would expect those who work in pubs to be at high risk of infection and yet, as the Scottish Licensed Trade Association points out...

One widely reported survey, by industry group UKHospitality, spanned 12,522 hospitality venues across the UK that employ a total of 358,000 people. It found that in the 14 weeks since July 4, 1,728 staff members had been infected with Covid, equating to an employee infection rate of 0.48% across 20 million work shifts across the UK.

According to this survey, the customer infection rate was found to be even lower – with just 780 customers infected with the virus over the 14-week period, which equates to a 0.06% customer infection rate per venue.

If, as the study concludes, transgressions were only found in a minority of pubs, the solution is to police the regulations properly. Banning pubs from selling alcohol would throw the baby out with the bathwater, but that's fine with the Institute for Social Marketing and SPECTRUM because they don't like the baby and are not particularly keen on the bathwater. 

Since the start of the pandemic, I have been documenting the actions of the corona-vultures of 'public health'. These are the people who are supposedly experts in public health and yet have nothing to contribute when a genuine public health appears. Instead, they use the crisis to advance their existing agenda and even criticise those who are trying to help.

This seems to me a classic example. It is also a classic example of the endemic sock-puppetry of the Scottish state wherein the SNP dishes out money to activist-academics who share its agenda. 

The emergence of a vaccine for COVID-19 has got the corona-vultures worried. They fear they only have a few more months of using the pandemic as an excuse for their petty authoritarianism. But that will be long enough for them to try out their most drastic experiments. In the short term, they can go wild. In the long term, their aim is to keep as much emergency regulation on the books as possible when the emergency is over.

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