Credit to Hugh O’Connell in the Independent for this scoop, though some readers may have missed it since it is near the end of his report:
The Nphet advice was given to the Government last Thursday and included new guidelines for pubs to follow when they reopen.
This includes a ban on any live music or dancing. Public health experts also recommended that TV volume must be turned down low to ensure people are not forced to speak over it.
International research has shown the virus spreads more quickly among people who are raising their voices – such as those attending sporting events or in other crowded situations.
Nphet also said some pubs may need to introduce extra toilets facilities to allow for social distancing.
Pubs may also have to limit the number of customers they can have at any time depending on the size of the premises. Nphet added nightclubs and discos should remain closed for the foreseeable future.
This might be the clearest evidence yet that NPHET just don’t understand people, or pubs, or how normal life works. If you turn the telly down during Liverpool versus Man United, you’ll still have to worry about people roaring – either celebrating a goal, or roaring at the pub owner to turn that damn thing up, or shouting at the crooked ref who’s granny was from Manchester, you know.
And if the publican refuses, and keeps the volume down low, what’s going to happen? Chances are, you’ll have twenty or thirty men standing clustered around it, straining to hear Gary Neville’s commentary, breathing all over each other.
Here’s the thing though: This, to some extent, is what NPHET is supposed to do. NPHET’s job is to give the Government what it considers to be the best medical advice to defeat the Coronavirus. The day NPHET says “lift the lockdown”, there’ll be no point to having NPHET at all.
The problem isn’t NPHET – they’re just doing their jobs. The problem is that we have a Government whose job it is to listen to them, and decide whether their advice makes any sense. Micheál Martin is perfectly well empowered to respond to foolishness like this with a very public “no, thank you”.
But politicians, of course, especially in Ireland, want cover. You can’t blame them, the thinking goes, if they’re just doing what the experts say. “Don’t blame us, it’s NPHET, we’d open the thing up in the morning”.
And ah, we’re supposed to say, isn’t it awful that NPHET won’t allow us to turn the volume up on the telly.
But it’s not them. It’s the Government.
Say what you like about NPHET and the Government, but it’s likely that far more Government TDs have watched a premiership game in a pub that members of NPHET have. In cases like this, it’s entirely up to the politicians to say hold your horses, docs, that doesn’t make any sense.
Ireland is now suffering from the worst possible bastardisation of the original lockdown. In the beginning, it was fairly easy for the average joe – you stayed at home and stayed two metres away from people.
Now you can go out for a drink but you have to also pay to eat dinner whether you are hungry or not. You can go to a pub to watch a match, but you can’t listen to the commentary. You can go to school, but you can’t talk to your friend in another class. It’s they tyranny of the thousand small rules. And the stress of remembering them all is probably contributing to the mounting discontent.
This tweet is about the UK Government, but it seems to apply a little bit in Ireland, too:
The Tory approach to managing coronavirus seems to be trying to ban any form of human interaction that doesn't contribute directly to the economy.
— Mary Harrington (@moveincircles) September 9, 2020
It’s very clear that the decision to open the pubs is entirely political, and entirely about the economy. That doesn’t mean that it’s the wrong decision – pub owners have an entitlement to make a living, just like anybody else, and pub customers have a duty to look after their own health, just like anyone else.
But it’s also clear that NPHET are opposed to the decision, and that the Government are adopting most of these absurd rules to pacify them. It’s like a child pleading with their parents to go to a concert – “I’ll be real good, I promise, and I’ll be home by ten”.
The Government should either open pubs, or keep them closed. It has zero business regulating the volume on televisions.
The country is turning into a farce, and it’s because the Government are trying to ride two horses at once, and because Micheál Martin – yet again – is absolutely petrified of making a normal decision.