Hospitality bodies reject criticisms as 1/3 of diners say passes aren't checked

Hospitality bodies reject criticisms as 1/3 of diners say passes aren't checked

Adrian Cummins, chief executive, Restaurants Association of Ireland: 'We need to have a full and frank conversation about what is the plan for the next number of months. They will have their concerns around public health, we have our concerns about the economy.' Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The Taoiseach's office has sought an emergency meeting with the hospitality sector as businesses increasingly ignore rules to stop the spread of Covid-19.

With virus case numbers hitting the worst levels since January, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has revealed the percentage of people not having Covid certificates checked in pubs has shot up from 21% in early October to 37%.

Over a third of diners (34%) in restaurants are not having passes checked.

Following the publication of the ESRI survey, the Department of the Taoiseach sent an urgent request to representatives of the hospitality sector to attend a meeting at 12pm on Tuesday. 

The meeting will focus on compliance rates and examine how the hospitality sector can better promote Covid safety.

'Minimum standard' expected

The agenda for the talks outlines the need to boost safety measures and prevent superspreader events. It says compliance with rules around mask-wearing and Covid certs is the "minimum standard" expected from businesses. 

Two of the largest representative bodies in the sector confirmed they will attend the talks. 

“We need to have a full and frank conversation about what is the plan for the next number of months. They will have their concerns around public health, we have our concerns about the economy,” said Restaurants Association of Ireland chief executive Adrian Cummins.

He said blanket criticism of the sector is not appropriate, insisting restaurants have been complying with the rules laid out in August.

A spokesman for the Vintners Federation of Ireland confirmed they will also attend the talks. 

The ESRI survey, carried out every two weeks to measure social activities, found the number of people choosing to dine indoors has increased since early October.

The results also show one in five people comply with mask-wearing requirements less than half of the time. 

A further 3,903 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed last night, as Taoiseach Micheál Martin called on people to be “conscious of their behaviour”. 

Mr Martin said the rise in case numbers is concerning, but he ruled out the reintroduction of strict lockdowns, saying those measures “belong to earlier stages of the pandemic”.

'Mixed messages'

However, the Government has come in for stinging criticism for sending mixed messages to employers on the return to office protocols. 

The Department of Health this week instructed office staff to work from home, removing the requirement for one office-based shift a week, but other Government departments continue to operate blended working models. 

The Department of Health confirmed it suspended the practice of staff working from the office on public health grounds, just weeks after the phased return of workers commenced.

However, several other senior departments, including Finance, Higher Education, and Education confirmed to the Irish Examiner that staff are continuing to attend the office one or two days a week, in line with guidelines.

In a statement, the Department of Health said, following a review of workplace attendance, staff were informed that mandatory attendance of one day per week has been suspended temporarily.

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said the situation is “confusing people”.

“It is not tenable that different departments are doing different things. There needs to be clarity and consistency, but it sends a message to other sectors, like schools," she said.

“When we are getting mixed messages from the lead department, it is very difficult to understand what is the right thing to do.”

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Saturday with Katie Hannon, Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland said he believes the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) should also attend Tuesday’s meeting.

When asked if members of Npeht would be involved in the meeting, he said that Nphet has not been present at a meeting with the industry throughout the pandemic.

 “We’ve asked for them to be in the room so we could speak directly to them. Now, we did have officials from the Department of Health when the Covid pass was developed but ever since we have never had a direct conversation with either health officials or Nphet."

Mr Cummins said he believes Nphet should be present at the meeting next week.

He added: “I think we have to have a collective focus on this.” 

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