LISTEN: Irish Government to make decision on Christmas restrictions

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Taoiseach Michael Martin

By Michelle Devane, PA

The Irish Government is expected to approve a plan allowing restaurants and gastropubs to open before Christmas, contrary to public health chiefs’ advice.

Cabinet was meeting on Friday afternoon to decide how Ireland will exit Level 5 coronavirus restrictions.

The country’s six-week lockdown is due to come to an end on Tuesday night.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has warned the Government against reopening the hospitality sector ahead of Christmas. It has recommended that pubs and restaurants should only be allowed to serve takeaways throughout December.

But it is understood that Cabinet ministers will give the go-ahead for pubs serving food and restaurants to reopen from December 7.

Household visits will be permitted between December 18 and January 3. People will also be allowed travel across the country and attend religious services during that time.

From Wednesday, all shops, hairdressers, barbers and gyms will be allowed to open their doors.

The Licensed Vintners’ Association (LVA) said any decision to keep wet pubs closed while other parts of hospitality are allowed to open would be a “political decision” by the coalition Government based on “zero evidence”.

LVA chief executive Donall O’Keeffe said: “The Government can’t hide behind Nphet now if they decide to single out the ‘wet’ pubs and keep them closed.

“It will now be quite clear this is a decision that is only being made by members of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Green Party, and they will have to own that decision. Nphet didn’t tell them that only the ‘wet’ pubs should be kept closed.

“There is no evidence which exists that ‘wet’ pubs pose a greater risk than restaurants or gastropubs. The same regulations and enforcements are in place for all these types of venue – the same social distancing and the same time limits.”

Adrian Cummins is from the Restaurants Association of Ireland spoke about the situation facing hospitality in the Republic of Ireland:

Adrian Cummins

Restaurateurs have called for the Government to provide clear and concise guidelines ahead of any reopening.

Sally-Anne Clarke, owner of L’Ecrivain in Dublin, said the restaurant was able to operate very well during the summer but staff need time to plan any reopening.

She told RTE’s Morning Ireland that the Government needs to tell them today whether they can open again.

“Because we’ve been closed since the 18th of September, we’ve got a full book from the 1st (of December) so we need to know pretty sharp when they’re going to allow us to open to reschedule bookings, and all the suppliers need two to three days’ notice and that does not include a Saturday and a Sunday,” she said.

“We need at least two days’ notice to turn things around in the kitchen and in the front of house.”

Mrs Clarke added that the business is relying on reopening because it is not doing click and collect orders, and described the prospect of being allowed to open outdoor dining only as “crazy”.

Padraig Cribben from the Vintners Federation of Ireland doesn't think there's a consistent message:

Padraig Cribben

The Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19, attended by chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan and HSE chief executive Paul Reid, met on Thursday evening to discuss the plans and the risks posed by reopening society.

Before the meeting, Mr Reid said there is a “balanced set of risks” involved, between protecting the health service and the importance of Christmas in terms of mental health and wellbeing.

On Thursday, three further deaths related to Covid-19 were recorded and an additional 335 confirmed cases.

It takes the total number of deaths in Ireland to 2,036, with 71,494 confirmed cases.

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