As you will doubtless know, the government over the weekend eliminated many of the COVID-19 public health restrictions, so we need to update our guidance for bridge clubs in relation to holding live bridge events.

All restrictions on room capacity, closing times, and social distancing have been removed for indoor activities with immediate effect. That means that bridge games, and bridge classes, can now take place live once more in any venue. The restriction on face-masks remains in place in specified indoor settings for at least another month; the government has indicated that it will be reviewed by end-February. So our guidance remains that either protective perspex screens should be used on tables (with masks worn when moving around, but not necessary when at the table) or that face-masks should be worn throughout. We have a small number of perspex screens still in stock at the original price of €35 per table if any club wishes to buy some. Please contact us urgently, as supplies are limited. In addition, your playing room should be as well ventilated as possible, and players should be encouraged to make frequent use of hand sanitiser. And if you are planning to re-open, be sure to check that you have any necessary insurance cover in place.

The requirement for vaccination certificates to enter indoor venues has also been eliminated, and the legal position now is not entirely clear. Certainly there is no requirement any longer for a club to seek evidence of immunity (either full vaccination or recent recovery from COVID). If a club wishes to continue to seek evidence of immunity, then it is entitled to do so, but it may not be entitled to exclude an otherwise fully compliant and fully paid-up member who does not wish to provide evidence of vaccination, as this may be regarded as discriminatory. If a committee wishes to continue to limit attendance to vaccinated members, then the best course of action is probably that it should formally decide on that stance, and ask unvaccinated members to exercise their personal responsibility in the interests of the club and not attend for the moment. As ever, it goes without saying that anyone infected with COVID-19, or concerned that they might be, should NOT attend live bridge under any circumstances.

It is important to stress that the virus has not been eliminated, and that there is still some risk in meeting other people indoors, at bridge or anywhere else. The difference is that this risk is in future to be managed by a combination of vaccination and personal responsibility, rather than by government regulation. So we all still need to exercise caution, and some people will remain anxious about returning to live bridge. Indeed, there may not be a clear consensus within your club on whether or not it should re-open just yet. If that’s the case, we would ask you to respect the differing opinions: additionally, wherever it is practicable, it makes sense for a club to provide members with a choice of both live and online options, at least for the moment.

CBAI events have been arranged online until the end of February and it is not feasible to reinstate live venues for any of those events at this stage. So everything up until then will be held online as advertised. Thereafter, our fundamental preference would be to revert to live competitions assuming our intended venues can accommodate us. However, that all depends on members in sufficient numbers wishing to play live at that time (and in some cases travel to do so) to make the competitions viable. So we will be trying to gauge the appetite for a return to live CBAI competitions before making definite decisions, and would welcome hearing your views. Again, it is likely that there will not be a clear consensus on which approach to take, so apologies in advance if the one we ultimately choose is not your own preferred option.