3 min read19 July
Just hours after nightclubs opened for the first time in 16 months, government scientific and medical officers have issued a stark warning about attending “closed, crowded” spaces and suggested evidence from abroad shows they can be “super-spreader” venues.
Deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said he had concerns about any setting where people gather together inside with poor ventilation and have close contact to others while mixing with strangers.
The Prime Minister Boris Johnson said evidence from abroad had shown a “particular problem” with nightclubs but he did not want to close them, while chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance said nightclubs can be a focus for potential “super-spreader” events.
“There’s no question [a nightclub] is an environment where spreading is easier. I would expect with the opening of nightclubs we will continue to see the increase in cases, and we will see outbreaks related to specific nightclubs,” Vallance said.
Doors opened to thousands of revellers across the country at 00.01am this morning for what party goers described as a “New Year” style atmosphere. Clubs like Heaven and Egg in London were packed out, Manchester’s famous 42nd Street welcomes people back tomorrow, and LEVEL in Liverpool opened its doors with a “Return of the Dancefloor” event.
Van-Tam said at the Downing Street press conference today that the virus spreads along the principles of the Japanese government’s “three Cs” and while he did not want to single out nightclubs, he described near identifcal conditions where the virus would spread.
“Closed settings where the ventilation is relatively low. Crowded settings where there are a lot of people per square metre. Close social contact if that’s the purpose of being there particularly and if it’s strangers or people you don’t normally mix with.
He went on: “I don’t think it’s helpful to pick out a particular type of building or business. I could create the Japanese three Cs by inviting a load of strangers into a garden shed, and sitting around having a beer with the door shut. That would do it. That would be the Japanese three Cs encapsulated.
“Those are the things that as scientists we are concerned with, wherever they occur and under whatever circustmances,” Van-Tam said, less than 24 hours into the government’s so-called Freedom Day.
It was also put to Van-Tam that in the Netherlands nightclubs were reopened and then had to close again, with the Prime Minister Mark Rutte apologising to the country about opening up too soon.
Van-Tam said human behaviour in the next few weeks will be crucial in managing this latest wave of the virus, and when its peak will fall exactly.
He said: “So much of it will be driven by human behaviour over four to six weeks. It’s in everybody’s hands. If we are gradual, cautious, and we don’t tear the pants out of it….we will materially effect the size and the shape of the peak.
“It is literally in the hands of the public in terms of behaviours.”
Johnson said he did not want to single out a specific sector of the economy but there is evidence from other countries where there was “a particular problem with the opening up of nightclubs”.
He said he wanted club owners and managers to be responsible and use the NHS app, which he could make mandatory. A certification system for those who are double jabbed, could also be introduced, something some nightclub owners have suggested would be burdensome to enforce.
Johnson suggested it would not be right to shut their doors, just hours after they reopened.
He said: “I don’t think that would be the right thing to do.”
To open up in Autumn would be riskier, he said.
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe