Dublin pubs are to remain closed and county residents have been asked to limit household visits as part of the Government’s newly released six month ‘living with COVID’ plan.
The six month plan outlines a five level warning system to indicate what public health guidelines are in place in each county in Ireland. Level One is the lowest level, while Level Five is the highest, similar to the measures imposed when the pandemic lockdown took place earlier this year. Level Four would be similar to the restrictions implemented in Kildare, Laois, and Offaly last month.
There is no suggestion that at any point the whole country will re-enter a state of total lockdown and it is hoped that the new system will allow for localised and more targeted control measures.
There is widespread anger and disappointment amongst publicans with the news that Dublin’s pubs are to remain closed beyond the previously announced 21st September reopening date. As well, people in Dublin have been asked to invite no more than one other household into their home.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that the situation for Dublin will be reviewed in three weeks.
The government is concerned about COVID 19 infection rates in Dublin, which have increased more than 10-fold over the last couple of weeks. There is a positivity rate of 3.5% in Dublin, compared to 2% in the rest of the country.
This the fourth time the reopening of non food pubs in Dublin has been delayed, following 20th July, 10th August and 31st August.
The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) has described the Government’s decision as being an “empty gesture, backed by hollow words from a Government that broke its commitment to non food pubs again.”
“This arbitrary separation of wet pubs from pubs serving food is completely unfair and unjustified,” said Donall O’Keeffe, Chief Executive of the LVA. “It is an empty gesture that will make zero impact on reducing the level of infection we are currently experiencing in Dublin.”
He continued: “One week ago the Government said that non food pubs won’t be singled out if there are any regional restrictions. Then NPHET says that they way to deal with infections which are mainly occurring in the home is to keep those pubs that have been shut for six months closed for even longer.”
Dublin pubs that don’t serve food should be treated exactly the same as every other part of the hospitality sector, said Drinks Ireland, which represents Ireland’s drinks suppliers.
Patricia Callan, Director of Drinks Ireland said: “It is completely disproportionate and unfair for these pubs to be treated as political scapegoats, and differently to the rest of the hospitality sector. Dublin pubs that serve food have reopened, safely.
“This continued closure impacts not only pubs, but also drinks suppliers. Beer and cider in particular cannot be kept in storage for lengthy periods as both will go off.
“Pubs are vital for Ireland’s drinks suppliers and the continued closure of wet pubs in Dublin poses a major threat to our sector. As a whole, Ireland’s hospitality industry purchases approximately €1 billion from domestic food and drink suppliers every year.”
Pubs outside Dublin that do not serve food are still set to reopen on 21st September under the guidelines released last week.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) will meet on Thursday to discuss further recommendations for Dublin.