Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said he cannot guarantee that almost 3,500 pubs will be able to open again this year as the Government has decided that Covid-19 levels are too high to allow the country to advance to phase four of the recovery roadmap next Monday.
The decision means that pubs which do not serve food must stay closed until at least August 31, and there will be no change to the limit of 50 people at indoor events and 200 at outdoor events.
Furthermore, Mr Martin confirmed that:
- It will be legally mandatory for people to wear face coverings in shops and shopping centres from Monday;
- Five countries are being taken off the travel green list — Cyprus, Malta, Gibraltar, Monaco, and San Marino;
- Restaurants and pubs must be closed by 11pm.
Amid claims from the sector that the continued closures are the death knell for rural pubs, Mr Martin said the Government’s decision last month not to open pubs, nightclubs, and casinos proved to be right as the number of Covid-19 cases has steadily risen.
The five-day average of cases is now over 45, having been as low as 6.4 in the last week of July.
“We are doing what we are doing to save lives and to give our society and economy the best chance to reopen safely and sustainably,” said Mr Martin.
“International evidence has shown that the opening of pubs and nightclubs is linked inextricably to increased community transmission and that is the very worst thing that could happen here.
“The worst thing that could happen the economy is a significant spike in cases.
Mr Martin quoted Ronan Glynn, the acting chief medical officer, who told the Cabinet that Ireland’s fight against the virus is now “delicately balanced”.
Responding to the announcement, vintners said that the Government has “abandoned” them.
More than 3,500 pubs will have had their doors shut for a minimum of 168 days, 46% of the year, if the Government decides to allow them to open on August 31.
Vintners’ Federation of Ireland chief executive Padraig Cribben said the industry is now in a “full-blown crisis”.
“This is Groundhog Day for the trade as twice now the reopening of pubs has been postponed,” said Mr Cribben.
“The new Government’s decision has caused grave alarm within the trade as publicans face an extremely uncertain future with little to feel optimistic about.
“Make no mistake, this is a full-blown crisis for the trade as over 3,500 pubs must now remain shut,” he said.
“The Government has basically just abandoned half the pub sector,” said Donall O’Keeffe, chief executive of the Licensed Vintners Association.
"We’re repeatedly being told that opening the pubs ‘could lead to an increase in the virus’. Well, when will that not be the case? Was that not a potential issue at the other phases too?
"With NPHET always urging caution, when will this Government ever reopen pubs?”
There was further bad news for those planning weddings and sporting fixtures, as Mr Martin confirmed there would be no change to the limit of 50 people at indoor events and 200 at outdoor events.
That figure has severely constrained the ability of GAA fans to attend recent club championship games.
Yesterday, the association cancelled all of its 2020 season tickets as it cannot guarantee all holders will be accommodated at games in this year’s championship.
Dr Glynn said the issue with outdoor events was less about attendance and more about journeys to and from venues. He said large crowds tend to congregate before and after the events and travel together.
The Cabinet made the decision as a further 45 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed, bringing to 26,253 the number of confirmed cases in Ireland.
There were no further deaths confirmed.