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Pubs and restaurants will have to close at 8pm under new Covid restrictions

The number of people attending sporting and live events will be capped at 50% capacity.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin addressing the nation this evening
Taoiseach Micheál Martin addressing the nation this evening
Image: RTÉ News

Updated Dec 17th 2021, 7:00 PM

PUBS AND RESTAURANTS will have to close at 8pm from Monday until 30 January, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has confirmed.

Venues can still facilitate deliveries or takeaways after 8pm. This curfew applies to all hospitality venues including cinemas and theatres.

Cabinet has agreed that the number of spectators attending outdoor or sporting events be limited to 50% capacity or a maximum of 5,000 people.

In terms of indoor events, number will be limited to 50% capacity or a maximum of 1,000 people.

Cabinet has also agreed that a maximum of 100 people can attend wedding receptions, which must end at midnight.

Addressing the nation in a live address outside Government Buildings this evening, the Taoiseach said: “The news will be deeply disappointing for many. It is not the news I wanted to bring you, nor is it the news you wanted to hear.

“However, and this is important: the truth is that we’re in a much better place than we were last year. This Christmas, please be safe and look after each other.”

He added: “Everything that can be done to get the booster into people’s arms is being done. The testing regime is also being ramped up to help stem the spread of the new variant.”

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has stressed the need to move urgently to stop the spread of the Omicron variant in its advice given last night, the Taoiseach said.

New travel rules

New antigen teasing measures were also announced for everyone arriving into Ireland from abroad.

From Monday, everyone arriving into the country will be advised to conduct antigen testing daily over a five-day period after arriving into the country. The first day will be their day of arrival.

Currently, everyone arriving into Ireland from abroad must have a negative PCR test taken up to 72 hours before arrival. This measure still applies.

Those who are vaccinated against Covid-19 or who have recovered from the virus can alternatively show a negative antigen test result carried out by a professional no more than 48 hours before arriving into the country.

In his speech, Martin said the Omicron variant is “exploding throughout Europe”.

“I spoke with European leaders yesterday and the level of concern about what is coming is the highest that I have seen.

“We are still in the early days of this new wave and data is still being collecte, but already it is very clear that we are dealing with a hugely transmissible strain of the disease, with studies showing that it is many times more transmissible than the Delta variant.

“It is here it is in our country and we’re going to see a massive rise in infections. Already, in just a few days, more than a third of new cases in the country are as a result of Omicron.”

‘Closure in camouflage’

The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) has said that the decision by the Government to implement an 8pm curfew for pubs and restaurants is “closure in camouflage”.

The group said most pubs will now be unable to viably operate in the coming weeks and will now have to close anyway, putting tens of thousands of people out of work.

They also questioned how the “arbitrary closing times of 5pm or 8pm” were decided upon by NPHET and the Government, “with no scientific explanation currently having been provided”.

Speaking in reaction to these developments, Donall O’Keeffe, Chief Executive of the LVA, said: “Obviously we are very disappointed about this decision as it clearly amounts to closure in camouflage. Most of our members will now take the decision to shut their doors as they simply won’t be able to afford operating in these conditions.”

“Many pubs have been expressing the view that they would rather be asked to close than have to accept an arbitrary curfew of 5pm or 8pm. Obviously though that would then represent an official lockdown of our sector and for some reason neither NPHET nor the Government are willing to be upfront about what this means.

“Instead they get a bargain basement lockdown, where it’s the employees, the pubs, the restaurants and all their various suppliers that will really pay the price. We need immediate and comprehensive supports to now be put in place.

“We also seem to be heading towards ongoing, rolling closures of hospitality for as long as the pandemic persists. If that’s going to be the case then the Government should be upfront and tell it straight to the industry.”

NPHET briefing

NPHET last night recommended that pubs and restaurants be shut from 5pm, and that the number of people attending sporting and live events be reduced.

These recommendations had prompted considerable opposition among some Government backbenchers.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan told a briefing of journalists this evening that the Cabinet’s decision to close hospitality from 8pm was “a welcome acceptance of the intention of our advice”.

“The key thing was to drive down, as much as possible, social contact. Contact is going to be a good deal greater in the evening time,” he added.

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Ireland could witness up to 20,000 cases a day with 2,000 people in hospital by early January under NPHET’s most pessimistic modelling.

Optimistic models predict 8,000 cases a day and between 650 and 1,000 people in hospital, but there are concerns that increased socialisation at Christmas would exacerbate infections.

NPHET members said that even if the Omicron variant turns out to be less severe than the Delta strain, its superior growth rate meant hospitals are still under threat.

Dr Cillian De Gascun said: “It would be great news if it turned out to be less severe, but its growth advantage remains a serious concern. It would have to be far, far less severe than Delta for it not to overwhelm our health service.”

Public health officials today confirmed 3,628 new cases of Covid-19 in Ireland, and the Omicron variant is now estimated to make up 35% of total cases.

As of 8am today, 420 people were in hospital with the virus, and 105 are in intensive care.

Contains reporting from PA

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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