'I don't know what the problem with the Vintners is': Taoiseach responds to criticism of nightclub rules

'I don't know what the problem with the Vintners is': Taoiseach responds to criticism of nightclub rules

"It is the virus that is dictating this, not the Government. The Government doesn't want to be putting restrictions on people," said Micheál Martin. Picture: Johanna Geron, Pool Photo via AP

The Taoiseach has said the alternative to placing restrictions on late night entertainment would be to pause the reopening entirely.

Last night, the Government announced that all nightclub events must be ticketed from next week.

Micheál Martin said the situation will be reviewed on a constant basis but added that the majority of the public know to change their behaviour and to be extra careful when they see case numbers rising.

Rejecting the idea that urging people to exercise caution while simultaneously opening up nightclubs is giving mixed messages, he said people were already gathering at night.

"If you look at 11.30pm some nights, there were hundreds of people, young people naturally, they are out enjoying themselves and so on.

There was an argument there for saying, let's try this in a regulated setting where we have contact tracing."

The live music and late-night hospitality sectors have branded the new rules around ticketing a disaster.

Donall O’Keeffe, chief executive of the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA), said: "The very fact that this bombshell was dropped on the trade at 6.30pm on the very evening they reopen after 585 days of closure shows how appalling the Government planning for our reopening has been."

Responding to this criticism, Mr Martin said the Government has been very supportive of the sector throughout the pandemic.

"I don't know what the problem with the LVA is," he said.

The reaction to ticketing was likened to the introduction of the vaccination certificate in July when Mr Martin said "all hell broke loose" but in the end the move proved to be effective and easily administered.

Late decisions had to be made due to the recent rise in case numbers, hospitalisations and admissions to ICU which were flagged as a cause for concern last Wednesday week, he explained.

This was signaled very clearly at the time and Nphet needed a few days to analyse the data to see if it was a blip or a pattern.

"It is the virus that is dictating this, not the Government. The Government doesn't want to be putting restrictions on people," said Mr Martin.

"We have to respond to the virus as it manifests itself."

Looking ahead: 'There's an optimistic model and then there's a pessimistic model'

The Taoiseach said it is difficult to predict how the situation will unfold over the coming weeks.
The Taoiseach said it is difficult to predict how the situation will unfold over the coming weeks.

The rise in hospitalisations with the virus has sparked fears the health service will come under sustained pressure over the winter months.

As of this morning, there are 449 Covid patients in hospital with 93 in ICU - up three in 24 hours.

The early arrival of respiratory conditions such as RSV, norovirus (the winter vomiting bug) and the first indication of the presence of flu add to the threat currently facing the health service.

The Taoiseach said it is difficult to predict how the situation will unfold over the coming weeks.

"There's an optimistic model and then there's a pessimistic model. You could be looking at up to 150 in ICU by the end of November and that would be serious in terms of the wider impact on the health service.

"But if we all collectively behave and what I mean by that is just to watch ourselves and be a bit more cautious about how we go about in congregations and things like that, we can pull this back," Mr Martin told the Anton Savage Show on Newstalk.

The importance of getting fully vaccinated is key to this, he said as he welcomed the rise in the number of people getting the jab in recent days.

With the booster vaccine underway, Mr Martin said research has shown that it will make a significant impact in terms of preventing hospitalisation and serious illness among the eligible cohort.

Looking ahead, he foresees an annual Covid vaccine becoming the norm similar to the flu vaccine.

Science and medicine will catch up with this virus

There is an indication that very good progress has been made on therapeutic medicines to treat the Covid-19 virus with five gone to authorisation process. Picture: Pexels
There is an indication that very good progress has been made on therapeutic medicines to treat the Covid-19 virus with five gone to authorisation process. Picture: Pexels

At a meeting of the European Council in Brussels yesterday, Mr Martin said there was an indication that very good progress has been made on therapeutic medicines to treat the Covid-19 virus with five gone to authorisation process.

"Science, in the end, and medicine will catch up with this virus. In the meantime, we have got to use all the weapons in our armory to try and hold it at bay."

It is not possible to predict when the country will return to some sense of normality but the Taoiseach said the focus is on getting through this winter.

The Government and health officials will be watching for any potential mutations or new variants emerging as well as how case numbers are progressing across Europe.

A return to strict restrictions or lockdowns is not something anyone wants and the Taoiseach said the success of the vaccination campaign and the rollout of the boosters will provide a lot of protection against that.

He said Ireland has entered a new phase of the pandemic and is in a stronger place than last year.

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