We are alarmed at the decision to allow pubs that serve food to reopen on June 29.
While we understand the pressures on Ireland’s tourism and hospitality sector and the hardship experienced by owners and staff, we urge the incoming Government to reconsider this decision.
The typical Irish pub provides the ideal conditions for a Coronavirus super-spreading event, especially when friends meet up after a break of several months. Covid-19 is still circulating in our community, although at a relatively low level. Unfortunately, however, a rapid rise in incidence is not a hypothetical risk.
One visitor to nightclubs in South Korea in one weekend infected 160 people, necessitating 46,000 people to be traced and tested. Deferring the reopening of our pubs until July 20 would allow time to put systems in place to reduce this risk.
Ireland’s success in controlling Covid-19 over the last four months stems from the leadership of the Department of Health, informed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).
They have emphasised the need to relax physical distancing measures in a slow, gradual stepwise manner, to allow the effects of specific measures to be individually evaluated.
By allowing pubs to effectively self-designate as restaurants on June 29, it will be difficult to disentangle the risks of opening pubs, the opening of restaurants, and the removal of national travel restrictions in the event of an upsurge in the incidence of infection.
Community transmission has been relatively low in Ireland up to recently. Multiple outbreaks, seeded from Irish pubs, could set us back by months, possibly setting the efforts and sacrifices of the Irish people and health workers to nought.
We are dismayed that the Guidelines for Re-opening Pubs have been produced by Fáilte Ireland, the national tourist authority, supported by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, and not by the Department of Health.
It seems unlikely that the measures detailed in this 20-page document can be implemented, maintained, and enforced at the level required to minimise the risk of Covid-19 infection.
We call on the Department of Health and NPHET to take responsibility and reduce the risks from an inadequately planned and precipitous reopening of pubs. A careful, well-planned reopening is essential both for the protection of the health of the population and for a sustainable economic recovery.