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'Vast majority' of Covid-19 restrictions hoped to be gone by August, Tánaiste says

“I’m hoping that that’s the month when things are relatively normal again,” Leo Varadkar has said.

File image of Tánaiste Leo Varadkar speaking at Government Buildings last week.
File image of Tánaiste Leo Varadkar speaking at Government Buildings last week.
Image: Rollingnews.ie

Updated May 5th 2021, 6:51 PM

THE TÁNAISTE SAID he hopes “things are relatively normal again” by August with the “vast majority” of Covid-19 restrictions lifted. 

Leo Varadkar said he expects most restrictions to be gone by August, aside from some around international travel and mass gatherings, but added that “we don’t know what will happen when the winter comes”. 

“I’m hoping that that’s the month when things are relatively normal again. That doesn’t mean that everything will be the same, but the vast majority of restrictions you would hope to see gone by August of this year,” he said. 

He said Covid-19 case numbers are stable and hospital and intensive care numbers are falling, adding if he was working in hospitality he would be planning for outdoor dining in June and indoor dining by July.

“What I am looking at very closely is what is happening in countries that are a bit ahead of us in terms of vaccination, the United Kingdom and Israel, and life in Israel is pretty much back to normal, they’re welcoming tourists again and they’re having not very large gatherings, but they are having mass gatherings,” he said.

“You’ll have kids going back to school as normal in September, college happening on campus, all those things and a pretty normal Christmas in terms of seeing our friends and relations,” he said.

“But nobody can promise that. This is a new virus which is only around a year or so and the vaccines aren’t even around a year.”

Hospitality

Speaking about the Tánaiste’s comments this afternoon, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said he agrees with Varadkar’s view on the timeline of lifting restrictions because he is optimistic about the vaccination roll-out programme

Speaking on The Last Word on Today FM, Donohoe said the country also has a far better testing regime in place than last year. 

Asked about the government’s previous Stay and Spend Scheme to encourage domestic tourism, Donohoe said he doesn’t expect a similar scheme this summer because he feels that there will be “a huge appetite” for people to holiday at home anyway. 

“What we need are decisions to support the viability of businesses that are opening up. And that is why the lower VAT rates, and decisions such as the employment wage subsidy scheme are more important,” he said. 

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The challenges facing the hospitality sector as it reopens were also raised in the Dáil this afternoon, with Independent TD Mattie McGrath criticising what said was “discrimination” against publicans that don’t serve food. 

McGrath was speaking about a new government grant for businesses that serve food to help them upgrade their outdoor areas. McGrath said all pubs should be able to avail of the grant. 

“Surely every pub, whether they serve food or not, should be entitled to the same process, in order to apply for funding to be able to cater for the customers, which they always love to do.  The customers want hope as well.  These pubs should be able to apply for these grants in the same way as a pub that serves food,” he said. 

McGrath also criticised the use of the term ‘wet pub’, which he described as “illogical”. 

In response, the Taoiseach said that the government is looking at how it can best support establishments that will cater for outdoor drinking from 7 June.  

Additional reporting by Press Association and Rónán Duffy

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