A new study by the University of Stirling is to look at how licensed premises, including pubs and restaurants, can safely reopen to the public by examining the risks involved for staff and customers.
The study, one of 10 major projects funded under the Scottish Government's Rapid Research in Covid-19 programme, is being led by Professor Niamh Fitzgerald, of the Institute for Social Marketing and Health (ISMH) at Stirling, along with Professor Jim Lewsey of the Institute of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow.
Due to be completed by November, the study will look at the impact that relaxing lockdown restrictions and phased openings will have for operators and customers at licensed premises.
The study will also consider how to protect the emergency services, in particular the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS), after concerns of potential increased call-outs if large numbers of the public were to take advantage of any relaxing of rules by "drinking more than usual".
The team will investigate the practicalities of phrased openings and whether licence holders can respond to any easing of restrictions – in terms of alcohol consumption, intoxication and promotions – and how to minimise infection risks for staff and customers.
Professor Fitzgerald, an expert in alcohol policy, said: "The actions of businesses and consumers could have implications for how intoxicated people get, and have a knock-on impact on our emergency services. It is really important therefore, to understand the options available for easing restrictions."
Fitzgerald said the team would consult with a wide range of businesses, staff, policymakers and experts, with one option being to ease restrictions partially, or in a "staggered way", potentially with measures remaining in place around sales, opening hours or venue capacities to "minimise harm and impact on the emergency services".
The team will also analyse SAS data on ambulance call-outs, interview premises owners and key stakeholders and may also examine customer behaviour and venue operation.
Professor Lewsey, an expert in medical statistics, added: "This study has only been possible because it builds on a strong existing collaboration with the Scottish Ambulance Service, to better understand the impact of alcohol on ambulance call-outs more generally. We are delighted to have the opportunity to support the Service with relevant research at this challenging time."
Most pubs and nightclubs closed more than seven weeks ago, as part of the UK and Scottish Government response to the Covid-19 pandemic. On Sunday evening prime minister Boris Johnson said the hospitality industry could begin to reopen from July with social distancing measures in place.