Three days' notice on reopening indoor dining 'not practical', say pubs and restaurants

Three days' notice on reopening indoor dining 'not practical', say pubs and restaurants

The Licensed Vintners Association said the Government has to come to a decision this week.

Pubs and restaurants will be given as little as three days’ notice as to whether or not they can finally press ahead with reopening on July 5.

With staff already being hired, supplies ordered, and premises prepared, the businesses must wait until public health experts and the Government decide whether the risk from the Delta variant is such that the July 5 date must be put back.

Publicans and restaurateurs want that decision to be made this week, but Government sources say it will be the middle of next week at the earliest before they will be told.

As it stands, it is likely that the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) will meet next Thursday, with an announcement by the Government on Friday.

Sources say that while the Government is sympathetic to the need for clarity, the latest data will be needed, along with Nphet modelling. 

Yesterday, a further 348 new cases of Covid-19 were reported.

It is understood that top civil servants were briefed yesterday that it will be next week before the impact of the more transmissible variant is known.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that, as things stand, the plan is still to ease restrictions on July 5, which will see a return to indoor dining and drinking, allow 50 people to attend a wedding, and permit four households to gather indoors.

However, he also said that, as with all other recent announcements, a final call can only be made closer to the time.

However, there is a growing belief that a short delay of two to three weeks would be more prudent.

"There is a train of thought to stay closed for an extra couple of weeks to be safe, but the impact of that would be huge," said one Government source.

Donall O’Keeffe, head of the Licensed Vintners Association, said the Government has to come to a decision this week.

“They can’t reasonably expect the entire hospitality industry to wait until next Friday for what their decision will be and then be in a position to potentially reopen three days later,” he said.

“This is not practical and it is not how these businesses operate. 

They need to make decisions in relation to hiring staff, ordering stock and supplies, getting their premises ready to open. 

"If all of that is to proceed they need to have sufficient notice."

The threat of the Delta variant comes as Paul Reid, chief executive of the HSE, told the Oireachtas Health Committee that the rate of daily vaccinations here will drop to roughly 200,000 per week across July. Some 340,000 vaccines were administered last week, with a similar number expected to be carried out this week and next.

“We have a good supply line for the next two weeks of Pfizer and Moderna,” said Mr Reid, adding that what happens in July will come down to what the National Immunisation Advisory Committee has to say regarding the separate AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines.

“At the moment, we will be down to just the two supplies from Pfizer and Moderna. Unless there is some change with regard to AstraZeneca or Janssen (J&J), we’ll be looking at just over 200,000 per week, about 840,000 for July,” he said.

Vaccination is seen as the best way of protecting against the Delta variant which the European Centre for Disease Control has warned will represent 90% of all Covid cases in the EU by the end of August.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Heather Humphreys has promised that the Government is “totally committed” to supporting restaurants and publicans in outdoor dining and drinking, despite its current legal ambiguity.

Speaking in Youghal, Co Cork, she said she is working to bring proposals to Cabinet “very shortly” which would end any illegality around serving or consuming alcohol in certain outdoor areas.

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