Taoiseach Micheál Martin has confirmed that Dublin is to be under Level Three restrictions for the coming three weeks, which includes a blanket ban on indoor dining.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) made the recommendation on the evening of Thursday 17th September, and cabinet agreed with the decision in a meeting on Friday.
Level Three restrictions take effect as of midnight on Friday 18th September, and will last for three weeks.
The move was widely expected since the Levels system was introduced. There has been a spike in cases in the capital over the last two weeks.
At a briefing, the Taoiseach said that the ‘threat is growing’ from COVID 19 and despite people’s best efforts, ‘We are in a very dangerous place’.
“I understand how frustrated people are,” he said. “Only we as a people working together can slow the new wave of the virus.”
At Level Three, all restaurants and pubs serving food will be closed for indoor dining. They can continue to operate for outdoor dining, to a maximum of 15 people. Social and family gatherings of any kind are discouraged, and people are asked to stay in Dublin other than for essential travel reasons. Residents of other counties are allowed to pass through Dublin for travel reasons.
People are being asked to work from home unless absolutely necessary, and weddings are limited to 25 people in total.
Martin has also announced a financial aid package to sectors affected by the restrictions. “We will immediately invest €30 million in a top-up to the Restart Plus grant for Dublin businesses,” he said. “This will be open to all businesses affected by these measures including those that have already availed of the original grant.
“The government has also agreed an additional €5 million package to support those affected in the arts, culture, sports and tourism sectors in Dublin.”
In a statement, the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) has accused the Government of ceding control of the country to NPHET.
The LVA has said they now view the Government’s new Resilience and Recovery 2020 – 2021 plan as null and void.
“It is quite clear now that the Government has little say in how this country is being run and we are now being ruled by NPHET. Welcome to NPHET-land,” said Donall O’Keeffe, Chief Executive of the LVA. “They are closing down swathes of businesses in Dublin, pushing thousands of people out of work and yet NPHET admits they don’t have any data to show where the infections are arising in Ireland. Despite that lack of data the Government has empowered them to inflict whatever guidelines they want without challenge.
“Let’s remember pubs that serve food and restaurants have been open for several months without a spike in infections, having reopened on 29th June. But still NPHET has imposed the most severe, draconian and punishing restrictions on the hospitality sector in all of Europe.”
The decision to essentially shut down Dublin’s hospitality sector will be hugely damaging to the economy both in the city and the country and will be the final blow for many businesses already struggling to stay afloat, according to Drinks Ireland, which represents Ireland’s drinks suppliers.
Drinks Ireland said that the decision puts Dublin completely out of step with the rest of the country and also countries across the EU, where the hospitality sector has reopened, albeit with restrictions. Across many of these countries there have been targeted interventions to manage an increase in cases, rather than moves to shut down an entire industry.
According to Drinks Ireland, the decision also poses a major threat to drinks suppliers.