Ronan Glynn, the Acting Chief Medical Officer, displaying admirable politeness, recommended Google to Dáil deputies at his Thursday media briefing. He was responding to queries from the electorate's champions, demanding evidence (from him) that bars help to spread the coronavirus. Google, I should explain, is a search engine available on things called laptops, and it directs users to information on things called websites. TDs get free laptops.
Deputies taking Dr Glynn's advice could have discovered, quickly and unaided, that health authorities all over the world have reopened bars prematurely and then closed them again as part of the response to a resurgence of the virus.
Extensive and detailed studies have been posted online which have established that indoor gatherings, especially large gatherings of strangers, are the perfect home fixture for the microbes.
Bars large or small attract strangers (clue: they are called 'public' houses in Ireland) and the patrons imbibe booze, which makes them chatty and uninhibited. If I were the new virus in town and looking for action, I would head for the nearest bar. Complete the following: 'An Irishman, an Englishman and a Virus walked into a bar… '
In Ireland, bars which can claim to be restaurants reopened over a month ago, but several thousand drink-only establishments will not be reopening tomorrow as initially planned. The Government has taken the advice of Dr Glynn and his colleagues to leave them closed.
The decision to reopen the bars-which-are-restaurants has muddied the waters, angered the drink-only proprietors and the local TDs who represent them. Their disappointment has found generous voice on RTÉ.
Some of the cities around the world which have recanted and gone back to closedown have shut restaurants too: Melbourne has imposed a full curfew from 8pm. In selfless service of readers, I have been sampling the real restaurants and the bars-which-are-restaurants in the Dublin 2 and 4 areas. The real restaurants, especially the posh ones, are reassuring.
The bars-which-are-restaurants are a mixed bag - some are trying to be restaurants, spacing out clients, while others are facilitating a clientele spaced out already. A few have outdoor seating to which further research will be confined so long as the weather holds up.
A diligent Dáil deputy could have discovered the following, without guidance from Dr Glynn, a click away on the New York Times website: 'Think about a bar. Alcohol is flowing. It can be loud, but it is definitely intimate and you often need to lean in close to hear your friend. And strangers have way, way fewer reservations about coming up to people in a bar. That is sort of the point of a bar. Feeling good and close to strangers. It's no surprise, then, that bars have been linked to outbreaks in several states'.
Recent stories in the same paper (courtesy of Dr Google, no need to bother Dr Glynn) have reported that Louisiana health officials have tied at least 100 coronavirus cases to bars in the Tigerland nightlife district in Baton Rouge, near Louisiana State University. If you happen to be a fan of the Orlando Pride women's soccer team in Florida, you can tear up your season ticket. The team has been tossed out of the league for the season - the girls and some (male) team officials over-sampled the Orlando nightlife and the entire team has been red-carded. So have the bars.
The New York Times has reported that 'Minnesota has traced 328 recent cases to bars across the state. In Idaho, health officials shut down bars in Ada County after reporting clusters of infections among young adults who had visited several bars in downtown Boise.
'Governors in California, Texas, and Arizona, where coronavirus cases are soaring, have ordered hundreds of newly reopened bars to shut down. Less than two weeks after Colorado's bars reopened at limited capacity, Governor Jared Polis ordered them to close'.
The paper quoted Harvard professor Asaf Bitton: "Except for maybe a hospital with sick patients, I couldn't imagine too many more risky places than a super cramped indoor bar with poor ventilation and hundreds of people. That to me is a concern from a public health perspective."
One of the boasts of Dublin, and of towns and villages around the country, is precisely the endowment of microbe-friendly bars that are glorified corridors, cramped, poorly ventilated and popular with people keen to bump into strangers. Visitors from all over the world come to Ireland to view the Cliffs of Moher but also to get close to the natives, in bars.
Bord Fáilte has highlighted the Irish pub as a tourist attraction for the last 50 years and the concept has been an international hit.
The nightlife district in Seoul, capital of South Korea, includes some enormous Irish pubs.
While the itinerary of the unlucky gentleman has not been revealed and he may have visited none of them, the asymptomatic source of the new outbreak in South Korea visited five bars and nightclubs, infecting sufficient strangers to put the huge city in lockdown again.
The bars are closed in Los Angeles, Houston, Melbourne, Barcelona, Seoul and closer to home in Leicester and Aberdeen. The few thousand aggrieved Irish publicans should reflect on the reality: dispensing booze indoors is an unlucky business to be in right now.
Almost one million people are on the Live Register, the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, or the wage subsidy scheme. Tens of thousands have lost their jobs for keeps - there could be as many permanent job losses at Dublin airport alone, in airlines, ground handlers and the airport company, as in the drink-only pub trade. Lots of people have been unlucky.
Since the Government appears to have decided against aiming for a Zero-Covid target, without explaining why it is impossible, their task is to devise a policy for living with the virus, perhaps for several years. There are already signs of a breakdown in the solidarity evident back in March as vested interests fight for handouts. The publicans want compensation, a buyback of licenses. Why not taxi drivers, hotel owners, the million reliant on State subvention?
Compo on the house is not an option unless you believe that there is no limit to Government borrowing, a view whose supporters include unapologetic enthusiasts for the last big mistake: the 2008 bank guarantee.
Living with the virus means a public health policy which keeps infection under control. That is also the policy most conducive to economic recovery.
If public anxiety about rising Covid incidence inhibits consumer spending and business investment, there is no stimulus policy which revives the economy, even if it could be financed.