Routine testing before a pub meal – is it acceptable?

It’s now been a year since the unimaginable has happened. Life, commerce and socialising has come to a rapid halt, the like of which no one could have predicted. This tragic pandemic has cost much more than our lifestyle with almost no family unaffected.

And now, for the first time in over a year, there is hope that life can start to return to normal, as long as the vaccines work as well as we hope.

But what is the new normal? It’s likely that life will not be the same and we have to accept some of the previous freedoms we took for granted have gone for the time being. This brings up the question – what degree of personal invasion of privacy do we now accept to allow us to get back to the activities we all want to support.

Just before the last lockdown (December 2020) , with the support of the owner and publican, Breathe Assured conducted a study looking at the feasibility of testing everyone who entered The Bathurst Arms, near Cirencester in the Cotswolds. There were the usual social distancing restrictions in place and masks in communal areas. All patrons were offered a free rapid antigen test on arrival and asked whether they would accept this on future visits. Staff were tested too.

Just under 40 adults visited the pub for a ‘substantial meal’ (including the Bathurst Arms signature scotch egg!) and only one declined to undertake the test, indicating a 97% approval. Of those who undertook the tests, all felt they would be happy to undergo testing on each visit, and, interestingly, 85% felt testing should be compulsory rather than optional. The rapid antigen test we used is 95% accurate for those with high viral loads and gives are result in just 15 minutes….time for a free drink whilst waiting for the all-clear!

Even with the vaccine roll-out, it will be the end of the summer before all the population is covered, and

we are still waiting data on effectiveness, though no vaccine is 100% effective, of course. Concern will persist for a while about long-term efficacy and new mutations.

So, would you accept this invasion of our privacy to allow us to keep safe. Is this a new normal, at least for this year? We will need to be tested to get on a plane, to go into hospital for an operation…. but to go for a meal? Or to go to work or to a sports event?

We’ve all missed socialising and are desperate to resume life. We certainly don’t want to risk another lockdown and need to do whatever we can to avoid the virus taking hold again. Will that mean accepting regular testing to protect society, regain our quality of life and support an essential part of UK culture like our pubs and other sectors of the hospitality industry?

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