Taoiseach Micheál Martin has accepted the decision to delay the lifting of restrictions until August 10 is a “hammerblow” to publicans and other business owners.
But he said the warnings from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) that the reproduction number has now gone above 1 and the body was very clear about increased cases and such warnings cannot be ignored.
Confirming the decision to delay the move to Phase 4, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he is aware that the news will be “a disappointment” to many but it must be done given the increase in the spread of the virus.
He outlined a number of new measures which will come into effect in a fresh bid to supress the virus, which include:
- Face coverings to be worn by all in shops
- Pubs, bars, nightclubs to remain closed until August 10
- Social visits to homes to be limited to 10 people
- Limit of larger gatherings extended to Aug 10
- Greater checks and tracking of visitors arriving into Ireland will come into effect.
Mr Martin said the previous decisions to re-open the country was done on evidence but there was always a realisation there was a flexibility in the roadmaps when they were announced.
“We will be learning on an ongoing basis to live with Covid-19 for sometime to come. We have made significant progress but we take seriously the advice from NPHET,” he said.
“It is very disappointing for publicans in particular and hopefully some of the schemes we will announce will ease those difficulties,” he said.
The government approved Mr Martin’s travel to the EU summit this weekend which he said is an essential trip. He said he will travel only with a small number of people. He said a range of measures including testing on his return from Brussels will operate and he will be tested again after seven days.
Acting Chief Medical Officer, Dr Ronan Glynn said he would welcome more measures to help contain the virus but said NPHET has not recommended mandatory testing for those coming into the country.
He said NPHET’s advice was that restaurants could open but that pubs that opened must operate as restaurants.
Hammer blow as pubs to stay closed until August 10
Pubs not serving food will not be allowed open until August 10 after the Government delayed the lifting of the Covid restrictions.
Ministers are meeting in Dublin Castle to formally approve the delay to phase 4 of the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.
The Irish Examiner understands that the wearing of face coverings is expected to be made compulsory in shops and other indoor public spaces.
Ministers have confirmed that the planned move to the fourth and final phase of the plan to ease coronavirus restrictions will not now take place on July 20.
As a result, all pubs which do not serve a “substantial meal” to customers will now remain closed until August 10.
The Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) described the decision to delay the opening at "shocking" and a "hammer blow".
VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben said: “This is a shocking decision not to proceed with the planned reopening of pubs and will be a hammer blow to thousands of pubs and their local communities around the country.
“We are in a situation where restaurants and pubs already open are having to cope with larger crowds.
"Opening all pubs would allow for better social distancing and reduce the risk of infection.
“Publicans are reeling from this news.
"They did everything asked of them by remaining shut for over four months and our members had a reasonable expectation the sector would reopen next Monday.
"All other phases went smoothly so to now tell publicans they can’t open like the rest of the hospitality sector makes little sense.
Senior government sources have also said that concerns around foreign tourists entering Ireland mean the current guidance advising against non-essential overseas travel is due to be extended.
Regulations requiring people to wear face coverings on public transport came into force on Monday, with fines of up to €2,500, or six months’ imprisonment, for those who fail to comply.
The union representing retail workers has called for the introduction of compulsory face coverings for customers in shops and supermarkets.
The Mandate trade union said an agreed protocol drawn up in consultation with government should be put in place for the mandatory wearing of face coverings.
Mandate general secretary John Douglas said it was “ imperative we act collectively to ascertain the exact high level of risk posed to shop workers in Ireland by the spread of coronavirus, as well as acting swiftly to ensure mandatory face covering measures are implemented and compliance ensured for the protection of shop workers health”.