An independent TD believes the Government has “pulled the rug out from underneath” pubs which will not be re-opening next Monday as expected.
Michael Healy-Rae described the delayed re-opening of pubs, which do not serve food, until August 10th as a “retrograde step” during leaders’ questions yesterday (Thursday, July 16th).
“Our hard-working publications, and very importantly, their customers as well, are being treated very unfairly.”
He said the Government “has really missed the bigger picture, in that opening these pubs absolutely would not have increased the occurrence of the virus”.
“I would like the Tánaiste to explain on the record the difference between a person inside in a public house with a pint of Guinness in one hand and a toasted cheese sandwich in the other and a person in another pub with a pint of Guinness and no toasted cheese sandwich?” he said.
“It is a crazy decision by the Government. I really feel very bad. Today, on behalf of every publican, be it a man or a woman or a younger person in charge of a pub looking forward to opening next Monday, I want to tell the Tánaiste they are extremely angry about the way they have been treated by the Government.”
He said they are responsible people and more interested in public health than anyone else. “Remember, they have been minding people’s health for many years because they are in charge of what I would call well run public houses where they know their customers and they want to mind them.” the deputy concluded.
In response, Leo Varadkar, said, “I do need to be clear that what we are saying is that pubs and nightclubs will not open any sooner than August 10th.”
“We are not saying they will open on August 10th, we are saying they will open no sooner than August 10th, and it will depend on the numbers and how the virus behaves, to use Tony Holohan’s term, between now and then.”
“I can understand what a hammer blow this news is for publicans and for people who run pubs, nightclubs and other venues, who had expected and hoped they would be able to open next Monday.”
“It is not possible for a good reason, which is that the incidence of the virus in Ireland has increased.”
He said it is still very low, at roughly 20 cases at day at four per 100,000, which is the eighth or ninth lowest out of 31 countries in Europe. “The trajectory was a matter of concern. It was going in the wrong direction.”
This, he added, has not been largely due to international travel despite all the focus on it.
90% due to our own behaviours
“It has been 90% due to our own behaviours, with people in close contact with one another in confined indoor spaces breathing on one another, coughing on one another and touching one another, and as a result of this we have seen a number of clusters, often linked to house parties and social engagements.”
He explained that this is NPHET gave the Government the advice it did and the Government acted on it, which was to defer the opening of pubs and nightclubs at least until August 10th.
There are new rules relating to house parties, which is to say that people should not invite more than ten people to their house and from no more than four households. This is the advice.
“We know from all over the world, and from China and Asia, that it is not outdoor gatherings, for example, like what happened in Dame Lane, which should not have happened, where the virus spreads but it is in indoor small confined spaces with ten or 15 people passing it to each other through close contact and being together for a prolonged period of time.”
“This is house parties and small pubs, unfortunately. That is the truth of it.”
“It is also potentially restaurants, if restaurants act as if they are pubs and concentrate more on selling alcohol rather than people having a meal with a bit of alcohol and getting out within an hour-and-a-half.” he concluded.