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Tánaiste says there is no guarantee that pubs will reopen on 10 August

“There’s a big difference between Portmagee and Dame Lane,” said TD Michael Healy Rae.

TÁNAISTE LEO VARADKAR has said there is no guarantee that pubs will reopen on 10 August. 

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions, the Tánaiste said he could not say if pubs will reopen on that date, but said they certainly will not be opening before that date. 

“We’re not saying they will open on the 10th of August – we are saying they will open no sooner than the 10th of August.”

The reopening of pubs next month will depend on the figures relating to the virus. 

His comments come as a number of TDs told Varadkar the government had made the wrong decision by pausing Phase Four yesterday.

Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae hit out at the delay in pubs re-opening, stating that it will majorly impact on rural areas. He said the entire country should not be punished for the actions of a few.

“There’s a big difference between Portmagee and Dame Lane,” he said.

He also took issue with pubs serving food being allowed to open but those that do not remaining closed.

“What is the difference between a person with a pint of Guinness and a toasted cheese sandwich in this hand… and person inside another pub with a pint of Guinness and no toasted cheese sandwich?” asked Healy Rae.

“You are a doctor, why does that pose a public health danger,” he said, adding that “it is a crazy decision by the government”.

Varadkar agreed that the vast majority of publicans are responsible.

However, he said the government was always clear that the roadmap was not set in stone and could be accelerated or halted, depending on the public health advice.

The Tánaiste said he did “feel for people” who had painted the pub, ordered in stock in the expectation that they would be opening on Monday.

He said guidelines were being formulated for pubs on how they will be able to reopen, but said it might include rules about limiting numbers to “very small numbers”.

Varadkar said it is a “hammer blow” to publicans. He wasn’t the only one looking forward to “freedom pints” next week, he told the Dáil. 

Healy Rae said pubs were ready to open their doors and the government pulled the rug from under them.

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The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) said they are looking internationally as to what happened when pubs reopened, and it resulted in a spike, said Healy Rae. However, he said rural pubs are “unique” to pubs in other parts of the world.

They cater for “smaller numbers of people” he said, stating that “local people come in from countryside for a drink”. 

“You have really missed the bigger picture here,” he said, stating the reopening of pubs on Monday would not have seen a recurrence of the virus.

Varadkar said the virus is “still very low” with “roughly 20 cases per day”, but he said the trajectory was a matter of concern and was going in the wrong direction. 

He said this was “90% due to our own behaviours”.

“People in close contact with one another in confined indoor spaces breathing on each other, coughing on each other, touching each other, and as a result of that, we have seen a number of clusters often linked to house parties,” said the Tánaiste.

When alcohol is consumed “in house parties or on the streets…it is very hard to maintain social distancing”, said Varadkar.

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