16 February 2021
A new study, led by Professor Niamh Fitzgerald, SPECTRUM Deputy Director, and researchers at the University of Stirling, has examined the management of COVID-19 transmission risks in bars re-opening after Scotland’s first COVID-19 lockdown, including business practices, and consumer and staff behaviour.
Variable practices and incidents increasing risk of transmission
As well as interviews, the researchers conducted observations in July and August 2020 in a wide range of licensed premises which re-opened after a nationwide lockdown, and were operating under detailed guidance from government intended to reduce transmission risks.
While observed venues had made physical and operational modifications on re-opening, researchers found that practices were variable and a number of incidents of greater concern were observed – these included close physical interaction between customers and with staff, which frequently involved alcohol intoxication and were rarely effectively stopped by staff.
Providing urgent evidence
The new study – published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs – is the first in the world to examine the operation of COVID-19 measures in licensed premises and its findings will inform governments, public health experts, and policymakers in the UK and other countries as they consider the impact of the pandemic on hospitality and the risks of lifting restrictions.
The study team interviewed business owners and representatives prior to re-opening to understand the challenges being faced. When pubs reopened, following the initial UK lockdown, the team visited premises to observe how government measures designed to reduce transmission risks in hospitality settings were working in practice, including any incidents likely to increase those risks.
Professor Niamh Fitzgerald, SPECTRUM Deputy Director and study lead, said: