The planned 5th July reopening date for indoor dining has been delayed by the Government until at least 19th July, when a propsed plan will be released on how the reopening can take place.
For the time being Taoiseach Micheál Martin has not provided a date for any further easing of restrictions, saying that the priority was to ensure that “when a sector reopens it stays open”.
Indoor dining was to reopen for Ireland’s pubs and restaurants on Monday 5th July, however the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) gave the Government a stark warning about the potential spread of the Delta variant of COVID 19 and ministers subsequently agreed to push back the date.
“Last night [Monday 28th], we were advised by public health officials in very stark terms that proceeding exactly as planned on 5 July carries a real risk of greatly increased spread of the virus, increased hospital admissions illness and death,” said Taoiseach Martin.
NPHET has suggested to the Government that indoor dining could return initially only for fully vaccinated persons; creating a gated scenario based off the use of vaccination passes.
Speaking after Taoiseach Martin, Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said: “We only ever planned to use vaccination passes for international travel. It was government policy not to use those for domestic services.” He said it was a difficult change that ministers were unhappy about.
Publicans immediately rejected the idea.
The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) said it will reject any move to separate out the vaccinated from the non vaccinated, describing the suggestion as ridiculous and unworkable. The LVA said any such system would put every pub, restaurant and café in the country in an impossible position and would also lead to unvaccinated staff being charged with having to police who can and can’t enter their premises.
The LVA has also cast doubt on the projections publicised by NPHET last night, saying they need to be independent validated given the actual levels of hospitalisations and deaths in other countries where indoor hospitality is permitted and the delta variant is circulating.
Donall O’Keeffe, Chief Executive of the LVA, said: “It is insane to contemplate that international travel would be permitted and yet indoor hospitality would not be allowed for all customers. Why is Irish hospitality being treated so differently? Anyone looking at other countries where indoor dining is already happening and where the delta variant is circulating can see that level of hospitalisations and deaths outlined by NPHET simply aren’t happening.”
Padraig Cribben, Chief Executive of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI), said: “There is confusion and overwhelming anger among our members as to how pubs in the North can open safely for indoor trading since 24th May while the UK Government is removing all restrictions in the next three weeks stating that ‘we must learn to live with Covid’. Why are we taking such a markedly different, more conservative, approach?“
Drinks Ireland said that the decision, with no clear plan, has cemented Ireland’s position as an outlier in Europe with regards indoors hospitality. From July 2nd, when Greece opens indoor hospitality, the UK and all other EU countries will allow dining and drinking inside venues with measures in place.
In the context of a need for clarity, Drinks Ireland highlighted the logistical operation that has taken place in recent weeks to get pubs ready for the July 5th date. It takes five weeks to brew and deliver beer and an estimated 70,000 kegs of beer were produced.
It said that the recommendation of using Covid Certificates for vaccinated people, or people who have recovered from the infection, is a last minute moving of the goalposts and something that should have been planned for months ago, if necessary.
Elaina Fitgerald Kane, President of the Irish Hotels Federatin, said: “The impact of this delay will be felt far and wide, affecting suppliers and retailers as well as hospitality businesses. Indeed, in some cases, whole communities rely on the tourism and hospitality industry. Urgent clarity is required on what reopening will look like so business owners can plan effectively and realistically.”