by Colin Campbell
YOUNG people ignoring social distancing guidelines and acting as if the virus had never existed is the factor being blamed for a spike in new cases which is causing panic and localised lockdowns in towns and cities in England.
That’s a hugely unwanted and worrying development for those affected. It hasn’t happened here – not yet anyway – but given the behaviour of some in Inverness it’s not been for the want of trying.
In the time since the pubs in Inverness reopened we have repeatedly reported on the reckless disregard for any semblance of adherence to the rules in the free-for-all which has engulfed the city centre on weekend nights.
Our headlines have summed it up.
The contrast between the face-masked city centre during the day and the free-for-all city centre on weekend nights is alarming, baffling, and absurd
When Nicola Sturgeon announced pubs would reopen many people anticipated that this was going to happen. Drink and social-distancing just do not mix.
However, it’s somewhat different making the assumption with a level of detachment that it’s going to happen, and taking a walk around the city centre at weekends and actually seeing it happening.
Too many young people entering our rapidly reviving nightlife precinct have behaved as if warnings hadn’t been issued and the virus did not exist. Not everyone by any means, but still far too many.
At these times the Ness Bridge has been the link between two different worlds. On the west side, face masks everywhere and caution in abundance.
On the city centre side, no face masks, no social distancing and an ostensibly virus-free zone.
Some hostelries have claimed the guidelines are actually being followed as booze starts cascading over the counters. Loosely, we’d suggest, at best.
But others, as has been visibly obvious, have barely even paid them lip-service.
Lengthy queues for entry outside popular pubs have involved people standing to shoulder. Even for the sake of appearances, it might have been assumed that stewards would at least go through the motions and order people to stand the regulation distance apart, which would not have been a very difficult thing to do.
But even that didn’t happen. And if there was that level of indifference to the guidelines on the outside, no-one would seriously be expected to believe it was any different inside these establishments.
Upbeat photos have appeared in the media of neatly spaced tables with customers socialising over a drink in a picture-postcard scenario of how it should be done. But these have featured pub life during daytime, when the atmosphere is a world away from the explosion of activity during “prime time” at the weekend.
There appears to have been no drastic consequences from the flagrant lack of responsibility which overwhelms the city centre as people descend on it in large numbers when the drinking seriously kicks off at weekends.
But the low level of virus infections in this area is the sole reason for that.
And how long that will last, as with so much in this ever-changing situation, is unknown.
Younger people – even if they do contract the thing – are very unlikely to suffer any serious consequences. But undoubtedly they are placing others at risk.
There have already been warnings from the Government that pubs may have to close down again south of the border to curb a worrying rise in new coronavirus infections.
That should serve as a message to both pubs and customers in Inverness that they have to get a grip.
The contrast between those who are dutifully wearing face masks in supermarkets, and often outside them on Saturday during the day, and then completely abandoning all constraints and restraints at night when they enter their own boozy and boisterous “virus free zone” is, as we’ve said, alarming, baffling and absurd.
Nicola Sturgeon may well be forced to consider ordering that the bar shutters must come down if a serious rise in infections happens here. No-one should want that to happen. But the weekend city centre free-for-all is unacceptable when the threat to so many people remains so high. And if closures are deemed necessary those blatantly flouting every rule in the book will have only themselves to blame.