On Friday, July 3rd, 2020, pubs and restaurant are allowed to reopen after over three months of lockdown. For the industry, this is an extremely significant step towards a return to normal life. But members of the public are more hesitant: is it too soon?

All over the media in the past few days were articles about countries in continental Europe facing what can only be described as the dreaded second wave; photos of a crowded beach in Bournemouth; Leicester in the first UK localised lockdown; Germany – fiercely hit by the second wave even though they had been spared from the first.

In the Republic of Ireland, Department of Health officials advised people planning on travelling abroad to cancel their plans as the country faced a rise in Covid19 cases numbers. And yet in Northern Ireland, hospitality resorts are giving pubs and restaurants a final polish before opening their doors tonight.

In Headliners Foyle, we debated on the issue during our Online Bureau Meeting. Milo (22) was categoric: “I’ll not be going. It is way too soon. WAY too soon.”

“I can accept the idea of a small house party with my friends because I know all of them and I know where they’ve been and what they’ve been at. But the thought of going to a bar and having strangers coming dangerously close to me, and I just don’t know their medical records, or their travel history. No thank you.”

The virus hasn't gone away, it can still spread.

Canice (18) agreed: “I was never a pub person to begin with; I think I must have been in a pub once or twice. I would probably go with family or a group of friends if I thought the proper measures were put in place, but my family would be more the type to go to small gatherings rather than going to the pub anyway. I still think it’s too soon.”

For Aodhán (17) the situation is somewhat different. “I work in a bar, so if they reopen, I won’t have a choice, I’ll be there.”

He added: “In my place of work, a thorough risk assessment has been done. A whole system has been put in place – there will be extra cleaning duties, extra protection equipment for the staff; no orders will be taken at the bar. It’s going to be a whole new way of serving, and the rotas will be different too.

For example, the sine qua non condition for establishments to open is that we serve food. But food is mainly served during the day – I mainly work nights. How will that work out for me?”

 Aodhán thinks it’s too soon, but he is not entirely opposed to the idea either:

 “It can still be safe as long as the proper measures are put in place. Shopping centres have reopened, and there doesn’t seem to be much concern about it because people are doing social distancing. I’m not opposed to the idea of pubs reopening, I just think it shouldn’t be happening just yet. The virus hasn’t gone away, it can still spread.”

Many people are itching to get out to the pub because they can't stand isolation. Throughout the lockdown, social media has been inundated with stories about how people’s mental health has been affected by the lack of social interaction, the loneliness and for some, the complete lack of human contact.

Will the town go into chaos at the weekend?

Milo reflected “I don’t think people will be able to go crazy this weekend because the police will be around. Coronavirus is spread via body fluids so fights will definitely be out of the equation. The problem however is that most of us know the risks associated to NOT applying social distancing, but the issue is that once people have had a drink, they might forget what they should and should not be doing.

I think the bars will stay open for a week – there will be a huge spate of fighting and then they will shut again. After all, we’re in the middle of a pandemic."

This weekend will prove to be a particularly interesting one to watch – people don’t seem to really know what to make of this new measure; will they stay home? Or will they enjoy a drink in town for the first time in over three months?

The debate was coming to an end, when another curious issue entered our brainstorming session – leave the pubs alone for a minute, what about American tourists taking a holiday on the Emerald Isle?

On social media people are furious – in Dublin, Cork, Kerri, locals asked American tourists if they had been stranded because of the lockdown, only to discover that they had, in fact, just arrived in the country.

Isn’t it too soon for tourism to resume – especially, as Milo highlighted, if the tourism is coming from the epicentre of the pandemic?

This article was produced, written and edited by Headliners Foyle Bureau members Milo Quigley, Aodhán Roberts and Canice Cusack as part of our #LifeInLockdown series.

The photographs used were kindly provided by Headliners Foyle member / Derry Footage creator Aodhán Roberts (on Facebook and Twitter @DerryFootage).

This story was made possible by the ongoing support of The National Lottery Community Fund