The end of sport, the end of restaurants, the end of wine?


I am trying to stay positive during this Covid-19 lockdown. Rationing my media use, not trying to blame this disaster on politicians, and not looking too far into the future.

But where do we go from here? Social distancing – ISO – is an effective way to slow the spread of the virus and flatten the curve. Some countries have done it amazingly well and have relatively low fatalities.

The virus isn’t going anywhere, though. I’m no expert, but from what I read it seems that if the controls on social interaction are loosened, cases go up, and with them fatalities. We don’t have immunity, unless we have been infected, and then we don’t know how much immunity we have. Free to roam, the virus will spread through populations until a certain proportion have been infected, survived and have some residual immunity. But this doesn’t look like a nice prospect.

It’s only possible to lift ISO if there’s mass testing and then tracing of any cases. Or if there’s a vaccine, but that’s perhaps a year away. This isn’t going to happen yet. The best we can hope for in the short term is a slight relaxation of the current rules. Politicians are talking of ‘lives versus livelihoods’: if people become too poor and social spending is slashed, then that has a mortality rate attached to it and decisions may be made in a utilitarian sort of which costs more lives decision.I’ll be honest here: I can’t see my normal life of travelling around the world’s wine regions resuming any time soon. I’d be surprised if I can fly before September, but if you offered me this now I’d snap your hand off. [Having said this, I’m thinking very carefully about my travels and I’m not going back to the insane life I had before. I need to travel, but much less than I’ve been doing for the last four years. But I am a wanderer. ‘Not all who wander are lost.’]

There’s no quick return for normal. Where does this leave sports, such as rugby and football (soccer)? I can’t see them returning with fans in stadia for a very long time. You can’t have any measure of social distancing with a crowd of 40 000 people packed into a stadium. And as for the suggestion of playing behind closed doors? This might work to get some games played, but it would be close to unwatchable on TV. Without the live crowd there is no occasion. The spectacle is dead. This could be the end of sport. At least, for quite a while.

And the hospitality industry? It’s also hard to see busy restaurants and bars observing any sort of meaningful social distancing. And if they aren’t busy, they won’t make the sort of money they need to stay afloat. It’s so encouraging to see attempts to support local hospitality at the current time: we are going to need to keep doing this if we are to have restaurants still. I feel a sense of loss for all my friends whose work has evaporated in this industry.

The end of wine? Not just yet. But part of the appeal of wine is context, sharing it with others. Going out and buying wine in bars and restaurants. Drinking together. Wine in isolation can give some pleasure and consolation, but stripped of some of its meaningful context, I can see it suffering.

wine journalist and flavour obsessive

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