I completely support the Government’s efforts to help bring coronavirus under control, to keep us safe and to protect the NHS and our economy. The easy clinical solution would have been a total lockdown, so the new tiered system is a mark of the effort going into providing responses that are tailored to localities.
Everyone understands that social contact poses a risk of contagion, so managing those contacts in pubs, cafes and suchlike is absolutely key. We want to keep those pubs open where we can—not just because of the jobs they provide directly and through the supply chain, but because pubs are often the only place of contact for many isolated people. I think of the Chapel House wet-only community pub in Gornal in my constituency, and James, the landlord, who is still making things work with about half the normal clientele. However, James has told me that if his pub is to retain table-only service, he will have double the staff as well. That is an equation he can balance for the next month or so only by dipping into reserves.
My appeal is for us to revisit the risk profile of table-only service in wet-only pubs, and to consider perhaps more creative suggestions that might be even better. At the moment, new, young staff might be covid- asymptomatic and moving from table to table taking orders, and then coming back serving that table. Can we not look, perhaps, at more creative ideas, such as a table calling system on rotation, so that an individual from each table, wearing a mask, is called to the bar systematically?
All I am asking is that we revisit the science around this specific issue. Whatever the outcome, I feel certain that Dudley people, and people in Gornal, will play their part in defeating this virus.