No guarantee pubs will open next week

No guarantee pubs will open next week

Pubs might not open on August 10 as planned. File picture

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has refused to commit to reopening pubs next week.

The delayed move to Phase Four which would include reopening pubs was postponed for three weeks after health officials had become concerned over a rise in cases. Pubs are due to re-open on August 10.

Currently, bars and restaurants must serve a "substantial meal" - valued at a minimum of €9 - to serve alcohol, and customers can only stay on the premises for a total of 105 minutes.

The Vintners Federation of Ireland said the 4,000 family businesses who have been closed since March must be allowed to reopen on that date to "have any chance of viability".

Stephen Donnelly said he "did not want to make any comment" on the reopening until he had received advice from public health officials and the Government's key focus is reopening schools in September.

The National Public Health Emergency Team will submit its advice on phase four to the Government tomorrow, after which, the Cabinet will decide on whether phase four should go ahead.

"It is certainly the case that decisions could be made if NPHET deemed it necessary in order to keep the opening of schools on track," Mr Donnelly said.

"This has been a very very difficult situation for pub owners. Various publicans have come to me and other members of the Cabinet and asked a very fair question, which is why are they being singled out? Because retail is back open, a lot of other parts of normal life are back open, albeit with restrictions.

I asked exactly this question to the public health officials, and what they said was the international experience shows that when the pubs reopen the number of new cases goes up.

"So what they found was that doesn't seem to be the case with restaurants, for example, which is why they advised the restaurants could open, albeit with the restrictions in place.

"The public health officials are concerned about what has happened in other countries but the publicans are in a very very difficult position, and I have huge sympathy with them and Government has huge sympathy with them."

Ireland has seen a rise in cases in recent weeks, with officials flagging concerns after 85 new cases were reported last Thursday. Last week had a five-day average of 44.

The minister said public health officials "will be looking at all options" on Tuesday with a view to protecting public health and keeping schools reopening on track.

If public health officials advise that pubs should stay closed, the minister said it would be a government decision on what steps to take on the issue, but noted that both this government and the previous administration has followed public health advice closely.

"Certainly the previous government and this government has followed public health advice very carefully," he said.

"It's not to say that there has been a perfect alignment, it's NPHET's job to advise governments specifically on public health measures and government obviously has to consider that and many other measures for the entirety of our country and society.

"That would be a matter for Government to decide and Cabinet is meeting on Tuesday."

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