Will pubs close when schools reopen? What you need to know about the ‘trade-off’ agreement

As schools begin to think about re-opening for the start of the school year in September, key scientists advising the government have suggested that pubs and “other activities” may need to close in return.
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  • Will pubs close when schools reopen? That’s the big question hitting headlines today.

    The idea is that the closure of other activities like pubs when schools reopen would reduce the number of connecting households and therefore stem the spread of Covid-19, while children are able to resume education.

    It comes as Boris Johnson announced that schools going back in September was a ‘national priority’ and the children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, said that schools should be the “first to open and last to close” as children have a right to education. 

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    Schools closed their doors and took teaching online at the beginning of the pandemic in March and since then, they have been forced to cancel exams and rely on teachers’ predicted grades for important results. 

    While the reopening of pubs has been halted in Northern Ireland for the moment, with officials announcing a three-week delay on the opening of leisure venues and restricted travel. In England, Boris Johnson also delayed some lockdown-lifting measures on Friday, such as the reopening of casinos and bowling alleys. 

    So what will be involved in this pubs for schools trade-off? And will it actually happen? Here’s what you need to know…

    Will pubs close when schools reopen? 

    girl drawing on whiteboard at school - will pubs close when schools reopen

    Credit: Getty

    This “trade-off” style agreement was first proposed by Professor Medley, chairman of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) sub-group on pandemic modelling. He told BBC Radio 4 that it was “quite possible” that there would be restrictions on other activities to allow schools to reopen as planned next month. 

    “I think we’re in a situation whereby most people think that opening schools is a priority for the health and wellbeing of children and that when we do that we are going to reconnect lots of households.

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    “And so actually, closing some of the other networks, some of the other activities may well be required to enable us to open schools.

    “It might come down to a question of which do you trade off against each other, and then that’s a matter of prioritising. Do we think pubs are more important than schools?”

    However, other medical and scientific advisors have been quick to rebuff the idea, claiming that it’s not the most effective way to reduce growing networks of people. 

    As the BBC reported, Professor of Public Health at Newcastle University Allyson Pollock said that the trade-offs are a “diversion” and it is up to the government to fulfil their end of the deal. 

    “We need to be much more confident that the government is playing its part and has a coherent testing strategy – which it doesn’t have – that the test results are interpretable and that they are putting in the necessary public health and primary care measures,” 

    “And then we would not need to see these trade-offs.” 

    It’s not completely clear whether pubs would be forced to close their doors again as schools reopen. However, with another wave of coronavirus predicted for October, according to Prof Calum Semple from the University of Liverpool, it’s certainly an idea that seems to be on the table for the moment.