Third Wave vs. Bankruptcy Wave: The Struggle to Reopen Restaurants

Klaus Preisner
March 10, 2021

Fewer infected, fewer dead. As the second wave subsides and vaccination coverage increases, calls for a rapid economic recovery are growing louder. Wake up, open up, pay attention! The call: reopen restaurants quickly. What's in favour, what's against?

Restaurants: place of diners or diseases?

Opinions already differ on the assessment of whether restaurants are places of infection. In the UK, the government assumes an increased risk of infection in restaurants. Large numbers of people stay for long periods without masks - after all, they eat and drink at the table. The virus is social, it needs contacts. 


On the other hand, restaurateurs like Rudi and Rudi Sr. Bindella, say they are not aware of any infections in any of their 44 restaurants. The protective measures are rigorously implemented in the catering industry and the risk of infection is overestimated.


Reasons to open - and those not to do so

What were actually the reasons for the lockdown? To avoid overloading the health system and to protect at-risk groups, to save lives. The numbers are going down, fewer new infections, fewer hospitalised, fewer deaths. At the same time, more and more at-risk people have vaccination protection. So there are fewer and fewer reasons for harsh restrictions, on the one hand for the population, and on the other hand for entire industries such as gastronomy. 


However, in the UK, for example, only about 2.3% of the population had received two vaccinations by the middle of Match and thus had full protection against infection. Without protection concepts - distance, capacity restriction, mask, disinfection - or alternatively an opening only for immunised persons - a third wave would be imminent in the event of an increase in contacts, not least because more infectious viral mutations are currently on the rise. 


When do you want to open?

At present, countries are very anxious to avoid another large wave of infections. In contrast to the summer, they are not planning to open too early or without restrictions. In the UK, partial opening of restaurants is not expected before 12 April and only for outside dining. And this date will be postponed if deemed necessary. For most restaurants, however, this is not economical, as less than half of UK restaurants have outdoor seating areas. 


Moreover, the weather is neither beautiful every day nor stable all day. So where to take the guests when clouds suddenly gather and rain falls. Send them home after the 1st course and a glass from the bottle you ordered? 

While some restaurant owners are eagerly awaiting the reopening and hope to work at full capacity, not all feel this way. Individual restaurateurs such as Daniel Ernst and Pascal Erb from Zurich, say that it is better to wait until everything is under control and the danger of a third wave has been averted. Only then should they open, but without restrictions. No yo-yo effect and another closure in the summer.


Play it safe or open already?

Economic interests are opposed to health policy goals. Nevertheless, the fronts are not as clear as they seem. Economic liberals and bourgeois parties demand a rapid normalisation of the economy and earlier opening of restaurants. However, in Switzerland, for example, the Health Committee of the National Council has also come out in favour of an earlier opening. Probably also because it does not consider the risk of infection in restaurants to be so high. The turnaround is complete: The opening no longer needs to be justified. What needs to be justified now is the lockdown! Either way, how will the decision be made?


A decision must be made, and soon

Restauranteurs therefore agree: clear and binding guidelines are needed. Firstly, a fixed deadline. Secondly, clear guidelines that allow restaurants to operate economically. And that regardless of the weather and outdoor seating. For example, a complete opening of the indoor areas for people with vaccination or immunisation would be conceivable. 


Some argue that due to the principle of equality, the rights to freedom and fundamental rights can only be withdrawn for a reason, and such a reason is lacking for vaccinated persons if they no longer pose a serious risk of infection - which scientific studies from Israel, the country where the vaccination programme is most advanced, show. 


What do you think about it - vote here and see what others think .


When and how should restaurants reopen?
Immediately and at full capacity, indoors and outdoors.
Immediately with a rigorous protection concept, e.g. outdoor seating only.
Wait until everything is under control, then with full capacity
Wait until everything is under control, then gradually move to full capacity.

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