Public health expert Dr Gabriel Scally has warned that “alcohol is the virus' best friend” and that the only safe thing to do was to keep the wet pubs closed.
Last night, the Taoiseach confirmed pubs will not reopen as planned next Monday, as Phase Four of the reopening plan is delayed.
Nightclubs and casinos will also remain closed.
Dr Scally said there was a distinction between pubs that just serve alcohol and those that serve food and drink.
“They are like chalk and cheese. I’ve never had to shoulder my way to the counter to get a drink in a restaurant.”
Speaking on RTÉ radio's Today with Sarah McInerney show, Dr Scally pointed out that in Scotland where pubs had just reopened, 32 people had been infected with Covid-19 having all been in the one pub.
A “zero Covid” strategy would require cooperation North and South, no domestic cases, and putting controls in place to ensure no cases were imported, he said.
Keeping the virus under control wasn’t good enough, the aim should be to have zero cases, he added. Keeping the pubs closed was the way to do that.
When asked about Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s proposed Four Nations Elimination Strategy, Dr Scally said he greatly admired her and the plan, but he was pessimistic about the response from Whitehall.
On the same programme Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae said that the Government was treating publicans and their customers with contempt.
The reopening pubs would protect the public’s health, he claimed.
What was the difference between going to a pub for a pint and a toasted sandwich and getting a drink in a 'wet' pub, he asked.
The dangers that might arise in bigger pubs could not be compared with smaller rural pubs where there might be just six or seven customers, he said.
Yesterday, Mr Martin ruled out reopening pubs on a regional basis, saying there were spikes in clusters and community transmission cases in many counties.
He also could not guarantee that pubs would reopen this year, adding that it depends on the prevalence of the virus.