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'There's a long way to go': Coveney says pubs reopening early is 'a possibility'

The Tánaiste says any changes to the roadmap would need to be “rigorously assessed” .

Coveney at a reception for the Duke of Cambridge in Dublin earlier this year. (File)
Coveney at a reception for the Duke of Cambridge in Dublin earlier this year. (File)
Image: PA

TÁNAISTE SIMON COVENEY has said there is “a possibility” that pubs would open before 10 August but that this would need to be “rigorously assessed” before any change to the current roadmap is made.

Under the plan laid out in the roadmap, pubs will not be able to open until phase five, currently scheduled to begin on 10 August.

However, restaurants and cafes will be allowed to reopen on a limited basis from phase three, which is currently expected to begin on 29 June.

Yesterday, the Licensed Vintners’ Association (LVA) and the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) said pubs should be allowed reopen at the same time and on the same basis as cafes and restaurants if they implement radical new social distancing measures

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke programme, Coveney said changes to the roadmap can be made but that each amendment must be discussed with the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

Every three weeks, and in between those decision points, the government will debate the issues, take the advice from Nphet and make decisions either to stick with the plan, or to amend it. To either fast forward restrictions or to delay restrictions, or reimpose restrictions, if that’s what’s necessary to protect public health. 

“We’re going to interact with all sectors, that’s been happening with the construction industry. I’m sure it’s going to happen with the hospitality sector too,” Coveney added.

“And I know that publicans have been putting a plan together in the hope that may allow them to open pubs earlier. You know, I have to say, I think there’s a long way to go in that conversation. And I don’t want to create expectations in this interview.”

Business Minister Heather Humphreys suggested over the weekend that the timeline for the reopening of pubs could be accelerated and Coveney said this was “a possibility”. 

“I think the important thing here is that anything that’s proposed to government to change this plan needs to be, you know, rigorously assessed by Nphet and by the government before we make a decision on it right,” he added. 

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Coveney also sought to play down any talk of a divergence between the government and Nphet, describing the relationship between them as “a fantastic one”. 

“There’s complete trust in Tony Hoolohan and his team, but that doesn’t mean that ministers don’t want to ask questions understand the basis for the public health advice. But I can assure you, despite what’s been said in media over the weekend, the relationship between Nphet and the government is a very close partnership,” the Tánaiste said. 

Under the roadmap announced on Friday, people who were previously advised to ‘cocoon’ are from today advised they can leave their home for exercise at a safe distance from other people.

The Irish Independent reported this morning that Nphet had recommended that the cocooning advice remain in place until August, but Coveney denied this was the case. 

No, that wasn’t the advice. There was a conversation around how do we make sure that we take into account you know, the mental health and the stress that many people who have been effectively locked into their own homes for weeks now, how do we balance that with the obligation to try to keep them as safe as possible, in the context of the spread of this virus.

“And what we came up with, collectively, was that we would allow limited opportunity for exercise outside of the home for people over the age of 70, which has been announced today. And, you know, that is, that’s how government makes decisions.”

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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