JANET STREET-PORTER: Call me a killjoy, but we must shut down city pubs if selfish young drinkers can’t keep their distance and ruin it for the rest of us by prolonging this Covid misery

Pubs are where you meet people and it’s well documented that at least 90% of all relationships start by getting drunk – usually where alcohol is readily available in unlimited amounts. 

Was it a smart move by Boris Johnson to reopen pubs and bars as the weather warmed up and the holiday season (at least what used to be the holiday season) kicked off? It was a sop to keep us happy – but at what cost?

This week, one of the government’s scientific advisors described the official testing and tracing system as ‘clunky and slow’. 

Latest figures show the scheme is only reaching 50% of those who have come into contact with an infected person. 

People have been allowed to go out and get drunk and hang about outside bars and pubs. Pictured, revellers drinking in Soho, London

Was it a smart move by Boris Johnson to reopen pubs and bars as the weather warmed up and the holiday season (at least what used to be the holiday season) kicked off? It was a sop to keep us happy – but at what cost? Pictured, a waitress at a pub in Aberdeen

Hardly ‘world-beating’, more like ‘third rate’. The Mayor of Manchester called it ‘not fit for purpose’. 

And yet, Boris has pinned all his hopes on testing as the key way to allow us some fun, to return to work and get kids back into school.

A combination of inadequate testing and readily available booze is a toxic mix. But the government – perhaps because they are always under the thumbs of the liquor industry – seems to have abandoned joined-up thinking. 

Boris has pinned all his hopes on testing as the key way to allow us some fun. Pictured, Janet Street-Porter

Any secondary school teacher could have told them that placing teenagers and young people under house arrest with their families for months could only end one way: the moment restrictions were eased, the young would congregate in large numbers to celebrate. 

They are in parks, loafing on beaches and hanging around in clusters around every boozer in towns and cities all over the UK, cosying up without a care in the world. 

Last week’s lockdown in Manchester brought absolutely no difference to the numbers swanning about on Friday night, hoping to get hammered and maybe hook up.

Now, we’re seeing the results. In Scotland, there’s been a huge spike in new Covid cases – 64 and rising – the vast majority linked to patrons of 28 bars in the city of Aberdeen. 

Nicola Sturgeon swiftly imposed a local lockdown from 5pm last Wednesday, closing all bars, cafes, pub and restaurants in the city and told people not to travel there.

The same story has been happening in Melbourne and in the USA. So is this a pattern that will be repeated? 

Is Nicola Sturgeon guilty of over-reacting, given that Scotland has now gone 20 days without anyone dying who had tested positive?

Everything depends on sensible behaviour – there will always be people who manage to enter a pub on a Friday night, have a couple of drinks, and then call it a night. 

Matt Hancock (pictured yesterday) rudely posted the ban on entering other people’s homes on Twitter just hours before Eid

Sadly, that is a small minority. Most of us only lose our inhibitions (and our virginity) and natural reserve as the amount of units consumed increases. 

After a few drinks, maintaining the correct distance from each other becomes harder, not to mention less desirable. 

We can hardly unlearn years of behaviour overnight. Even so, young people do seem utterly fearless. Or is it stupidity?

One Aberdeen city councillor said ‘there’s confusion about face masks and the correct distance to stand apart’. 

Honestly, it’s not exactly rocket science, people aren’t being asked to answer an algebraic equation, but have the months of confinement turned our brains into mush?

A lot of Muslims might agree there should be a blanket ban on pubs after Eid celebrations in Manchester and the surrounding areas were cancelled without warning. Pictured, worshippers at the Bradford Central Mosque on July 31

In one Glasgow bar, The Swinton, a single customer tested positive for the virus after he had returned from holiday abroad and refused to quarantine. 

It’s selfish behaviour like that which has brought about the current lockdown. 

Another theory is that customers went from bar to bar on pub crawls, taking the virus with them.

Now pubs have become a flashpoint as people fear being sent back into house arrest. 

As the restaurant business takes the first steps back towards profitability, will the loutish behaviour of drinkers wreck it for the entire hospitality industry? If the number of local outbreaks continues to rise, will it affect the re-opening of schools?

If young people in particular have little interest in social distancing, should there be a blanket closure of pubs? 

A lot of Muslims might agree after Eid celebrations in Manchester and the surrounding areas were cancelled without warning (rudely posted on Twitter by our hapless Health Secretary Matt Hancock), while another section of the city’s population was allowed to go out and get drunk and hang about outside bars and pubs.

The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield is adamant that the re-opening of schools must be a priority. 

There are fears that as offices return to work and schools reopen at the start of September, there will be another rise in Covid cases. 

A study by University College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine says a ‘rebound’ affecting twice as many people as the first wave can only be avoided with an effective test track and trace system. If only we had one!

In fact, Scotland’s tracing system is better than that in England. Local tracing systems are proving more effective than the national scheme trumpeted by Mr Hancock. 

Manchester, Blackburn, Bradford and Calderdale are all going to implement local door-to-door tracing. 

Pubs cannot be closed in a blanket ban. That is punishing the sensible, the elderly and the lonely because kids are selfish

Local GPs have been saying for months that neighbourhood health centres have better information where people socialise and are the best way to trace potential cases.

These local initiatives may be an improvement on the government scheme, but tracing all contacts will never be an exact science. 

When we return to work, how will we know who stood behind us on public transport? And who barged into us outside a pub when we were standing on a pavement? At the moment, there’s no way of finding out.

In spite of the risks, I would not close rural pubs. They are vital to small communities, so it seems sensible to create one set of rules for cities and another for rural areas. 

The damage to mental health caused by the extended lockdown (especially for the elderly and those who were shielding) is unknown, but pubs aren’t just places to get drunk. 

They are where you meet the neighbours and socialise. Pubs cannot be closed in a blanket ban. That is punishing the sensible, the elderly and the lonely because kids are selfish.

Shut down city pubs if there’s an outbreak. Outside rural areas, there must be strict rules governing admittance to a pub in a built-up area – tag all drinkers outside and in so you know who they are, and they must produce photo ID, as in the USA. 

Enforce compulsory testing on entry. Yes, the schools must re-open but rural pubs must not be closed – unless the NHS want to cope with a mental health crisis of epic proportions. 

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