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Caution still needed in outdoor pub and restaurant venues, expert warns

Mike Bedigan, PA
·3-min read

Pub-goers should continue to take precautions against coronavirus even when outside enjoying beer gardens, an expert has said.

Professor Adam Finn, a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said that despite the success of the UK vaccine programme, people should continue to socially distance over the “coming weeks and months”.

It comes as pub beer gardens and non-essential retailers reopened in England as part of the latest easing of Government coronavirus restrictions on April 12.

Coronavirus graphic
(PA Graphics)

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Prof Finn said: “The vaccines are only one part of the solution to the problem.

“People do need to continue to be careful and to avoid infecting each other.

“I certainly for one am going to continue to take a lot of care to avoid exposing myself to other people and to avoid exposing other people to me over the coming weeks and months.

“I’m going to wear a mask outside. I’m going to continue to use hand hygiene and I’m going to avoid close social contact.

Beer garden
Brentford fans celebrate in a beer garden after their side scored a goal (Aaron Chown/PA)

“I think we all need to continue to do that otherwise there is a real risk that there will be another surge in cases and we’ll start seeing hospitalisations and deaths again.”

On Monday, pictures showed thousands of people across the UK enjoying their new freedoms and drinking in beer gardens and other outdoor venues.

Many did not appear to be socially distancing or wearing masks.

Prof Finn added: “If I did (go to a beer garden) I would certainly avoid contact with other people.

Drinkers in Soho
People gather for drinks and food in Old Compton Street, Soho (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“I think the risks of transmissions outside are relatively low but not if you start coming into close contact with people… if you cough or sing or really basically confront someone in the face.

“If you happen to have the virus, and the virus is still circulating, then infections will occur.

“People need to see this in relative terms, it’s not like it’s over and we can all go back to normal, because otherwise there will be risks.”

Using a cycling analogy, he said: “When you’re halfway up the hill and you lie down by the side of the road you’re not going to make a good time to the top, so you’ve really got to keep going.”

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said that despite the success of the UK vaccine rollout, people should not assume that the country was on a “one-way, inexorable, inevitable track to it all being fantastic”.

“I know I might sound a bit like a prophet of doom the day after we’ve started enabling people to go back to the pub garden but the reality is there are… really good reasons why we need to be cautious here,” he told Sky News.

“We need to be really careful about assuming we’re on a one-way, inexorable, inevitable track to it all being fantastic and we can go back to normal, because actually we’ll need a new normal.”

He added: “We need everyone to put their own personal pedal to the metal and ensure they follow the rules.”