Cabinet to decide on phase four today
■ Reopening doubts amid concern return of bars could see cases rise
The likelihood of pubs reopening next Monday remains uncertain as public health officials have voiced concern that the return of bars could lead to a spike in coronavirus cases.
Sources say that officials in the National Public Health Emergency Team have privately intimated that they would prefer the bars did not reopen, and are expected to relay this message to the Government after they meet on it today.
NPHET will this afternoon advise the Government on whether or not the country should move to phase four of the lockdown restrictions, after which the Cabinet will meet to decide if it should push ahead with the reopening of the economy.
If the restrictions are lifted, pubs, bars, hotel bars, and casinos may reopen. Gatherings of up to 100 people indoors and 500 outdoors would also be permitted to go ahead. The decision to pause phase four, which has been scheduled to be introduced on July 27, was taken after a spike in cases gave health officials cause for concern, prompting them to advise a more cautious approach.
The majority of pubs across the country have now been closed for over 140 days, and vintners’ associations say the Government either needs to let them re-open as planned on August 10 or come up with a “meaningful” support plan for the sector.
The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) expressed concern that this is the second time in three weeks that pubs have been left uncertain about whether they will reopen with less than a week’s notice.
“It is creating intolerable pressure for publicans, their staff, and suppliers,” said LVA chief executive Donall O’Keeffe.
“With less than seven days to go until the pubs are due to re-open, we still don’t know what is happening. This is exactly the same situation we were in three weeks ago. We can’t just keep going from three-week period to threeweek period. How many times are the Government going to walk an entire industry up that hill of uncertainty?”
Health minister Stephen Donnelly refused to be drawn into speculation on the issue of pubs when asked by reporters over the weekend, but did note that the key focus of the Government is having schools reopened in September.
He admitted that further postponing the reopening of pubs may have to be considered if it poses a risk to the state’s ability to return children to classrooms as normal at the end of the summer.
Yesterday, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre said it had been notified of 46 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, and no further deaths.
Some 85% of the new cases are in people aged under 45 years, 32 are associated with outbreaks or are close contacts of a confirmed case, and five cases have been identified as community transmission.
Fifteen cases are located in Kildare, eight in Laois, seven in Clare, five in Offaly and the remaining 11 are spread across nine other counties.
It comes after gardaí were forced to break up a number of gatherings of young people over the weekend in Co Clare and Dublin amid fears about public health.
Dr Ronan Glynn, acting chief medical officer, said: “The vast majority of young people in Ireland have followed public health advice and have made very significant sacrifices to protect themselves and others. People of all ages will occasionally slip up as they learn to live safely with this virus. We should not seek to attribute blame, but rather continue to encourage one another to build on and sustain the great efforts that we have all made to date.
“NPHET continues to monitor the evolving situation very closely, and will meet tomorrow.”