Cabi­net to de­cide on phase four to­day

■ Reopen­ing doubts amid con­cern re­turn of bars could see cases rise

Irish Examiner - - News - Aoife Moore

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.”

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