BINGO is raring to get back but with nothing even close to a full house.

The Mecca Bingo in Parkhead has spent months and not an insignificant amount of cash setting the place up to be compliant with new social distancing measures. Now all they need is a date for re-opening. Nicola Sturgeon has given them an indicative date, August 24, but this is reliant on a continual fall in the number of coronavirus cases.

Glasgow Times:

Paul McGlinchey, the manager of the much-loved East End bingo hall, said he was happy with the First Minister’s announcement.

“I’m delighted that Nicola has given us a date. It’s given us something to work towards," said Paul as he showed the Glasgow Times around the new “Covid-safe” bingo hall. “We were in a bit of a foggy area where we didn’t know when it was going to be.

Glasgow Times:

“It would have been great if it had been in a week’s time because we’re so advanced. But we’re very excited to get back.”

Paul gave a tour of the hall on the day the First Minister gave the indicative date for re-opening. Customers will now be guided around by floor markers and are instructed to follow a one-way system around the building. Tables will be spaced out, with a number reserved for household groups at one end of the hall. Players will also be offered face masks on arrival and hand-sanitising stations are in place throughout the hall.

Glasgow Times:

There is a queueing system in place at the bar to ensure people are at a safe distance while ordering drinks.

Paul said much of this will rely on the “common sense” of customers but he is confident people will follow the new rules.

Paul said he has been inundated with calls from loyal bingo fans asking when the hall will reopen.

He added: “The response has been incredible. Glaswegians are notoriously the biggest bingo-lovers in the whole of the UK. The Forge operated a food kitchen for two or three months during the lockdown and we were phoning elderly people as well and they were just that excited to be back. I’ve had two emails already today. We will start phoning people to tell them when it’s time to come back.”

Glasgow Times:

The reunion - whenever it may come - is likely to be an emotional one for Paul’s customers. Many are elderly and some have been shielding throughout the lockdown.

He said: “I think it will be a joyous occasion seeing everybody back in here. I’ve been in here for three months, seeing the place empty. Bingo halls are not places that should be filled with people laughing and having a good time. There social hubs, we all look after each other. It will be great to see them all back.”

It comes after Nicola Sturgeon announced on Thursday the indicative re-opening date of August 24 for bingo halls in Scotland.

She told parliament: “I am acutely aware, as I stand here right now, that in a statement like this, in which there is a lot of ground to cover, I inevitably make many five-second references that have profound implications for businesses and livelihoods. Please believe me when I say that I fully recognise the impact of the decisions that we are taking. I know how difficult the situation is for the sectors and activities that are facing a long wait before they can resume.

Glasgow Times:

“We do not take any such decisions lightly, but at present, we are not confident that we can restart all those activities safely within a shorter timescale. Doing so could risk a resurgence in the virus and undermine our ability to get children back to school.”

Miles Baron, Chief Executive Officer of The Bingo Association urged the government not to allow the date to “slip further back” and warned that clubs may not financially survive into August.

In a statement before Thursday’s announcement, he said: “We understand and support the Scottish Government’s cautious approach in coming out of lockdown, however bingo clubs across the country have worked extremely hard to make our premises Covid-19 secure, with PPE, increased hygiene and rigorous social distancing measures all in place. We are confident that we can reopen safely.

Glasgow Times:

“It just doesn’t make sense that a pub or restaurant could hold a bingo themed event and call out numbers, but local clubs that have been made far more Covid-19 secure can’t welcome their regulars back for a game of bingo.

“If the Scottish Government decides to extend our closure, bingo clubs across the country are facing having to close for good.”