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Publicans and politicians slam delayed reopening of pubs as 'harmful' and 'shocking'

The cautious approach by Government to reopening was prompted by an increase in the R number in recent days.

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Image: Shutterstock/Alexey Andr Tkachenko

PUBLICANS AND POLITICIANS have slammed the decision to delay the reopening of pubs until 10 August as ‘harmful’ and ‘shocking’, insisting that all pubs should be open by 20 July as originally planned. 

Earlier this evening, Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced that, on the advice of NPHET, the Phase Four plan to reopen all pubs on 20 July has been delayed by three weeks after the number of new confirmed cases rose in the past two weeks. 

It has sparked concern that many pubs which where hoping to reopen their doors next Monday may not do so at all as a result of a further period of closure. 

The Vintners Federation of Ireland described the decision as “shocking” and said the impact of the delay will be felt most by family-run pubs across the country. 

“This is a shocking decision not to proceed with the planned reopening of pubs and will be a hammer blow to thousands of pubs and their local communities around the country,” VFI CEO Padraig Cribben said.

“The vast majority of these pubs are small rural outlets run by families who are on first-name terms with their customers and far removed from the crowded venues that concern NPHET.

“As controlled venues we believe these pubs should be allowed open as they are far safer than the likes of uncontrolled house parties and pose little threat to public health.”

Cribben added that the VFI was seeking an urgent meeting with a Government that it believes is “divorced from reality about life in rural Ireland”.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne took to Twitter to express his concern following this evening’s announcement, echoing similar concerns for the impact it will have on rural parts of the country. 

“I disagree with the decision not to allow pubs reopen on Monday. Publicans who breach guidelines should be closed immediately and face questions over licence renewal,” he said.

“Pubs that serve food can still open – anomalous. Decision will be harmful to rural pubs.”

The cautious approach from Government and health officials follows a number of days in which confirmed cases climbed into the 20s, along with concerns that the rate of transmission of the virus has also hastened. 

Acting CMO, Dr Ronan Glynn Dr Glynn said: “there is uncertainty about the R number… our best estimate even allowing for uncertainty [is that] the R has risen above 1 and is in the range of 1.2 and 1.8″.

However, in spite of the recent increase in cases, Glynn said the number of patients in hospitals remains low.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has suggested the Wage Subsidy Scheme is to be extended beyond 10 August, adding that this will be helpful to those impacted pubs. 

“It is very, very difficult and disappointing for publicans in particular,” he said. “The forthcoming stimulus plan and the continuation of the wage subsidy scheme hopefully can help with some of the pressures.”

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar also suggested that the scheme would be extended beyond the 10 August deadline, and stated that Ireland’s wage subsidy scheme was far superior to the scheme in the UK which expires in October.

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Government sources have indicated that the wage subsidy scheme could be extended to the end of the year.

Martin said he would engage with pubs to ensure they could reopen safely on 10 August.

Despite the criticism from some publicans and politicians, others have welcomed it.

In a tweet, HSE chief Paul Reid said: “Many pubs, business and individuals are obviously disappointed by decisions tonight. But let’s all stay united in one big shared aim.

“Protect against a surge, save lives and support our healthcare workers. There will be an endgame sometime, just not yet.”

Additional reporting by Christina Finn

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