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Think of coronavirus in bars like cigarette smoke, says expert on importance of ventilation

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A member of staff cleans beer pumps, at the Dispensary pub in Liverpool, England, Monday Oct 12, 2020.
A member of staff cleans beer pumps, at the Dispensary pub in Liverpool, England, Monday Oct 12, 2020.   -   Copyright  Jon Super/AP
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Bars are back in lockdown across Brussels and new measures are popping up across Europe as part of widespread restrictions aimed at stemming the tide of rising COVID-19 cases.

The Belgian Brewers organisation is calling for more evidence to prove that bars and cafes are “infection hotspots” and warrant such strict measures.

But most scientists agree that the measures are necessary.

“There are of course many pubs and restaurants that follow all the regulations perfectly," said Professor Gabriel Scally, an expert in public health measures from the Royal Society of Medicine.

"That’s not so much the problem. The problem is the ones that don’t. The problem is the clientele and alcohol is a great liberator of people from common sense sometimes and the contact tracing information seems to indicate that anything up to a third of new cases are generated from the hospitality industry."

Prof Scally said better ventilation could be key to preventing the spread of the virus and keeping pubs open.

“We thought at the beginning that this virus was going to be mainly droplet spread, and droplet spread is still important. But it’s those tiny little particles, the aerosols particles that are so important."

Coronavirus, he added, should be thought of like cigarette smoke.

"Everyone knows that if you have some cigarette smoke in an enclosed room even of a decent size you will still smell the tobacco smoke, and it’s the same with the virus, so issues of ventilation are extremely important.”