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Dublin: 14°C Friday 18 September 2020

Pubs may not reopen and other businesses may close if Covid situation gets worse, government admits

Cabinet ministers have highlighted that case numbers have not resulted in a big hike in ICU, hospitalisation numbers, or deaths.

Image: RollingNews.ie

PUBLIC HEALTH RESTRICTIONS, which were due to last until 13 September, have been extended to 15 September.

Last month, the Taoiseach announced a suite of measures which included calls for all businesses to continue facilitating remote working, while also limiting visits to homes to six people from outside the home and from no more than three households both indoors and outdoors.

Other gatherings were limited to 15 people.

The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly secured Cabinet approval today to extend the current health regulations to 15 September. 

It is understood the measures have been extended due to the government’s new roadmap for reopening the country being published next week. New health measures will be rolled out, with the plan outlining the plan for the country over the next couple of months.

It will also outline action plans for different sectors and scenarios, such as spikes and falls in case numbers.

The extension of the regulations comes as the government admits that ‘wet’ pubs in some regions may not be allowed to reopen as planned later this month – and other businesses in some regions – may also be forced to close if the Covid-19 situation gets worse in the coming days.

Cabinet agreed today that pubs that don’t serve food can reopen their doors on 21 September.

However, when asked if this date is set in stone, a government spokesperson said the reopening of pubs will depend on the epidemiological situation – the incidence of the disease – but added that “at this point in time”, publicans can plan for 21 September. 

Ministers are understood to be concerned Dublin and Limerick are on “knife-edge” in terms of the number of positive cases being confirmed, however they are also taking into account that the number of deaths, and patients in ICU and hospital, remain low.

“If there is a change in the situation between now and then it won’t just affect pubs, it will affect all businesses,” the spokesperson added. 

She said the government will be monitoring the situation during the next two weeks. 

A further 307 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in Ireland today.

The Department of Health also reported one further death associated with the disease. The death occurred in mid-September.

There are currently six people in ICU, and 49 in hospital who are confirmed cases.

Ireland’s 14-day incidence per 100,000 rate, which is one of the key metrics monitored, shows the country at 33.8. 

Ireland’s rate is below that of the UK, Spain, France and Belgium. Italy, Sweden, Poland and Germany have lower rates today.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) is due to discuss potential changes to measures at its usual Thursday meeting before making any recommendations to government.

The Cabinet sub-committee on Covid will also meet that day to discuss whether to sign-off on or announce any of those recommendations. 

“There’s a bit of a way to go, so people can play their part,” the government spokesperson said this afternoon.

“We’re having to adapt to the virus,” she said, but added that government is very conscious that over 3,000 pubs have been closed for last six months.

Speaking about the reopening date for pubs today, Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said while Cabinet did decide on a date to reopen pubs today, “none of this trumps advice that NPHET may have to give in relation to any part of the country now or into the future”.

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On the issue of localised restrictions in the capital, another senior minister said that the dilemma is whether restrictions could be workable and enforceable.

The minister conceded that there are rising numbers of people testing positive, but added that it was expected because more people are being tested than ever before.

While the increase in case numbers may result in spikes in hospitalisations and deaths if this trajectory continues, government will need to decide to what extent this will justify re-imposing restrictions, they added.

They highlighted that the incidence rates are higher in other EU capitals than Dublin, and those countries are not locking down their cities.

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