I DID a double take when I heard that Deliveroo has asked the UK Government to run another Eat Out To Help Out scheme.

Surely food courier companies like it have benefited handsomely from restaurants’ forced closure to dine-in customers?

Amidst lockdown and restrictions, 65% of us have been spending more on takeaways to give ourselves something to look forward to, inserting a food punctuation point into another featureless week. Surely now should be a great time to be a shareholder in one of these companies?

Frightened by the gloom and doom media with its “if it bleeds, it leads” headlines, and groomed into obeisance by our two governments’ behavioural psychologists on a mission to scare the population senseless, some hyper-cautious people, mainly from an older demographic, now envisage never eating inside a restaurant again.

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Younger generations are generally horrified at such a prospect. They long for restaurants to reopen fully, not only for social contact but also because because they often work, or used to work, in one.

So many livelihoods are intimately bound up with restaurants: UK-wide 3.2 million people work in hospitality.

Deliveroo’s CEO Will Shu made a point that the keep-them-closed brigade must digest: delivery companies need restaurants to survive if they are to survive themselves.

“Restaurants are at the heart of our high streets and local communities and we want to play our part to help them reopen their doors.”

Without restaurants, delivery companies have nothing to deliver.

The idea that once restaurants are unlocked after a punishing year and a half of lockdowns and restrictions they will miraculously bounce back is either naive or wilfully deaf to restaurateurs’ financial reality.

UK hospitality saw a monumental 54% fall in sales in 2020. Across Britain, 235 hospitality businesses are going to the wall each week.

Those that have “pivoted” away from being dine-in only restaurants limp on with a trickle of cash flow from takeaway trade. Government support isn’t even enough to allow them to pay their bills. These restaurants are up to their eyes in debt, on the point of collapse.

We’re talking weeks, not months.

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Let’s be clear what the future holds if our restaurants don’t open up for indoor dining very soon.

Many good, viable independent restaurants we cherished pre-lockdowns, will fail, just when light was appearing at the end of the tunnel.

This will bring with it a shocking toll of very human collateral damage: demoralisation, despair, death. Restaurant closures cost lives too. Does a death from suicide count less than one from covid?

Unless restaurants open very soon, we’ll be left with a ‘choice’ of the deadbeat dedicated takeaways that we had pre-covid, and fast food chains, because the latter have deep enough pockets to ride out the crisis.

Sitting at home in the New Abnormal composing your takeaway order, the culinary world you can summon to your door will be unrecognisably depleted and dismal. The bikes will still be delivering, but the content of those insulated boxes won’t be worth eating.

Hospitality was linked to just 2.7% of covid cases last summer when the Eat Out To Help Out Scheme was running. Now the situation is better: the most vulnerable groups have been offered vaccines. Acquired immunity is growing. Hospital treatments have improved.

In Italy now, which has more infections per capita than the UK, and where fewer people have been vaccinated, most restaurants and shops are open.

Since January, many restaurateurs in Italy have been demonstrating civil disobedience and reopening their restaurants.

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Over 50,000 have taken part in the #IoApro (I open) movement. This movement has adopted as its anthem the closing lines of Bella Ciao, the song that became the Second World War anthem of the anti-fascist resistance: "Ma verrà un giorno che tutte quante, lavoreremo in libertà – the day will come when all of us will work in freedom.”

Perhaps because Italians have lived under fascism they are more sensitive to government over-reach and quick to spot the creeping hand of the authoritarian state.

Or perhaps Italians, who love and understand good food, are sophisticated enough not to fall for the false and simplistic binary of health versus the economy, as we do in the UK.

Either way, we could do with a bit of that spirit in this country right now.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.