6 October 2020

UPDATE: As a result of the move to Level 3 of the government’s Framework for Living with COVID-19 across the entire country, as of midnight tonight, we regret to advise that any in-person bridge events should be suspended for the moment, in view of the guidance that NO organised indoor gatherings should take place. This will obviously be hard on the small number of clubs that had already returned to live bridge, and to those that were planning for an imminent return. We will keep members updated as guidance changes.

While we are at it, we came across this article about an Australian bridge club that had moved online, due to COVID-19 restrictions, and the impact that it has had on the members. It is part of an academic study about the importance of so-called “third places” (i.e. not home or work) for individuals, especially older adults. A reminder about just how important bridge is in the lives of those who play it. If we can help you or your club to go virtual while in-person bridge is not possible, just give us a call on (01) 4929666.

6 August 2020

We flagged in a previous post that we were well advanced in preparations towards being able to provide guidance to clubs on the conditions under which they might re-open, assuming the general re-opening of activities within the country continued in accordance with the government’s published roadmap. Our thanks again to Dr Joe Barry, Professor of Public Health in Trinity College Dublin, and to Seamus Costello of the North-Eastern Region for their invaluable inputs into this process.

The good news is that the public health authorities have responded positively to our representations, and that we expect to complete our guidance shortly. It will involve a number of key safety measures to minimise the risk of transmission of the virus, including the use of perspex screens at every table to separate all four players, the wearing of protective face-masks, retention of equipment by a single individual wherever possible (for example, bidding boxes), regular hand sanitisation, and regular cleaning of shared facilities.

The bad news, however, is that, as you probably know, the government has stalled progress towards phase 4 of the easing of the coronavirus restrictions, and that the expected raising of the maximum numbers for indoor gatherings has been postponed until at least the end of August. As a result, the current restriction remains 50 people, which seems to us to make in-person bridge impractical for pretty much every club.

We will continue in our efforts in relation to drawing up guidelines for club re-openings, and will communicate them as soon as they are completed. However, it should be noted that they are just that – guidelines. The public health authorities have been clear with us that it is not possible to completely eliminate the risk of transmission of the virus, and that our objective is a very disciplined management of this risk, with a view to minimising it and being able to track those people who might potentially have been exposed to it. Each club therefore needs to undertake a rigorous risk assessment in light of its own specific circumstances, and devise its own (preferably documented) risk management plan. We have compiled a risk assessment template based on typical bridge activities and conditions which has been sent to all clubs to assist in this process.

In summary, the position is as you were until the guidance on minimum numbers at an indoor gathering changes, but we, and individual clubs, can probably work towards a re-opening of real-life bridge at some stage in the autumn, assuming the general conditions within the country do not deteriorate from here. We will of course keep all our member clubs informed of progress in this regard. We are also working on sourcing the perspex screens being discussed, and expect to be able to supply these centrally at reasonable cost.

On a more positive note, we now have well over a hundred clubs, and rising steadily, playing regular competitions online as virtual clubs. Our collective understanding of the technicalities of online bridge is developing rapidly, and the major online platforms are putting increasing resources into satisfying the requirements of their new cohort of customers. As a result, the online bridge experience, whilst not quite the same as real-life bridge, continues to improve in leaps and bounds. Many of the bigger clubs we speak to are planning for a world in which they will continue to offer an online alternative even once they open up for in-person games again. More choice for their members as to how they wish to enjoy their bridge, and an avenue for those who may not feel comfortable returning to the physical bridge table for a while. If your club hasn’t explored playing online yet, and would like to do so, we’re happy to help. Just give us a call on (01) 4929666. Even if you think your membership is too small to allow you to function on your own as a virtual club, we may be able to put you in touch with another club that can oblige, ensuring that your members don’t have to miss out on their regular bridge fix.