Options for opening pubs and restaurants to be studied

Stirling University scientists will look at how the easing the lockdown could work for licensed premises.

Hospitality: Restaurants and pubs have been forced to shut. Pixabay
Hospitality: Restaurants and pubs have been forced to shut.

Options for how to reopen pubs, clubs and restaurants while minimising the risk of coronavirus and the impact on the emergency services are to be studied by researchers.

Scientists from the University of Stirling will look at how the easing of the coronavirus lockdown could work for licensed premises, if they could have a phased re-opening and how staff can reduce the chance of infection.

The Scottish Government-funded project will consider the way in which consumers and venues might respond to any easing of restrictions, in terms of alcohol consumption, intoxication, violence, sales and promotions.

The impact of current restrictions on ambulance service call-outs will also be examined, as well as the potential impact should establishments reopen.

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Professor Niamh Fitzgerald, of the Institute for Social Marketing and Health (ISMH) at Stirling, is leading the new project.

She said: “Governments and the public are very interested in how licensed premises may begin to reopen – but there are risks involved.

“Whenever restrictions ease, businesses may seek to recoup losses and customers may choose to celebrate by drinking more than usual.

“The actions of businesses and consumers could have implications for how intoxicated people get, and have a knock-on impact on our emergency services.

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“It is really important, therefore, to understand the options available for easing restrictions.”

Prof Fitzgerald added: “We will consult with a wide range of businesses, staff, policymakers and experts.

“One option could be to ease restrictions partially, or in a staggered way, potentially with measures remaining in place around sales, opening hours or venue capacities to minimise harm and impact on the emergency services.”

Professor Jim Lewsey, of the Institute of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Glasgow, is also involved in the study.

He said: “This study has only been possible because it builds on a strong existing collaboration with the Scottish Ambulance Service, to better understand the impact of alcohol on ambulance call-outs more generally.

“We are delighted to have the opportunity to support the Service with relevant research at this challenging time.”

The research team will analyse SAS data on ambulance call-outs, interview premises owners and key stakeholders and may also examine customer behaviour and venue operation once the restrictions are eased, depending on the timing of any reopening.