Junior tourism minister favours 0% VAT rate for cafés, bars and hotels

The hospitality sector needs a 0% VAT rate to give them a "fighting chance" of survival, the Junior Minister for Tourism has admitted.
Junior tourism minister favours 0% VAT rate for cafés, bars and hotels

Additional reporting: Jess Casey, Eamon Quinn, Cianan Brennan and Juno McEnroe

The hospitality sector needs a 0% VAT rate to give them a "fighting chance" of survival, the Junior Minister for Tourism has admitted.

Brendan Griffin has also suggested the Government give consideration to an extra bank holiday as part of a rescue package and admitted that "a speedy recovery for the tourist industry is unlikely".

It comes as uncertainty continues to cloud the decision on whether this year’s Leaving Cert exams will go ahead as alternative assessments are officially brought to the table.

Following talks between students, teachers, parents, educational bodies and the Department of Education yesterday, teaching union leaders met last night to discuss some of the issues raised.

It is understood that holding the exams, while taking into account social distancing and public health advice for more than 60,000 students, poses a logistical nightmare.

Further discussions are understood to take place in the coming days.

A spokesman for Education Minister Joe McHugh did not respond to a request for comment last night.

Meanwhile 265 additional confirmed Covid-19 cases were announced yesterday bringing the overall total number of cases to 22,248, with 78% of those thus far diagnosed with the disease having recovered.

It also emerged that just 2% of the people trained to perform contact tracing for the HSE are currently employed to do so.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan confirmed that just 40 people, out of around 2,000 who had been so trained, were being used for contact tracing on Tuesday, but said that the figure is adequate to deal with the “low number” of confirmed cases that were seen on that date.

Dr Siobhan Ni Bhriain, consultant psychiatrist with the HSE, said that the number is flexed on a daily basis “according to clinical need”.

The news comes in light of the fact that a number of the country’s 48 testing facilities were closed over the bank holiday weekend.

Roughly 60,000 tests were conducted last week according to the Department of Health.

Chief executive of the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) Professor Alan Barrett has also warned that women working from home during the Covid-19 crisis and looking after children will likely emerge as the “hidden” disadvantaged in terms of equality.

He said that typically the low-skilled and the young fare worse when “the tsunami of job losses” hits in the early stages of recessions but that the Covid-19 recession has “additional features”, which will reinforce wage inequality.

Prof Barrett also said the Government also faces a tough call in the coming weeks on the costs of paying the €350 a week pandemic unemployment payment.

The Government also confirmed that special childcare arrangements will cover up to 5,000 families with essential health workers with parents paying €90 a week for services.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone told the Dáil that childcare workers would be asked to volunteer for the scheme, which will begin in late May.

Those workers will then get €15 an hour and the total cost of the scheme will be €4.7m a week.

However, little detail was revealed about the general reopening of the childcare sector, which will begin in late July.

At a glance

  • 37 more deaths
  • 1,375 deaths in total
  • 265 confirmed new cases
  • 22,248 confirmed cases in total
  • 2,878 cases have been hospitalised
  • 373 cases admitted to ICU
  • 10.734 cases in Dublin
  • 1,192 cases in Cork
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