Pubs may not reopen on August 10 in Republic, warns Varadkar
Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has suggested that pubs that do not serve food may not reopen as planned on August 10.
On Wednesday, the Irish Government delayed moving to phase four of the country’s reopening map, which would have seen pubs that do not serve food reopen on Monday July 20 having been closed since the middle of March.
Mr Varadkar said pubs that do not serve food will not reopen any sooner than August 10, and he added the Irish Government is not saying they will necessarily reopen on that date.
He told the Dail: “I have no doubt that the vast majority of publicans are responsible people and want to open their businesses. I want to see them reopen too. But I do need to be clear – what we’re saying is that pubs and nightclubs will not reopen any sooner than August 10.
“We’re not saying they will open on August 10 – we are saying they will open no sooner than August 10. It will depend on the numbers and how the virus behaves between now and then.”
Mr Varadkar said the Government has always been upfront that the reopening plan can be changed and decisions can be reversed at any time.
Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae said it is a “crazy decision” that some pubs that serve food can reopen while others cannot.
Mr Healy-Rae said: “We have always said that Irish pubs are very unique. Our country pubs are unique. They’re catering for smaller groups of people and they know their customers. All they wanted to do is open up in a small way so that local people could come in from the countryside and have a drink.”
He suggested regional variances should be taken into account when applying the coronavirus restrictions.
“You must remember that there’s an awful difference between Dame Lane and Ballinskelligs or Dame Lane and Portmagee – or any part of the county that I represent,” he said.
“I think you have really missed the picture here. By opening these pubs, you would not have increased the occurrences of the virus.”
He questioned the public health basis for allowing pubs that serve food to reopen.
“What is the difference between a person sitting in a public house with a pint of Guinness in one hand and a toasted cheese sandwich in the other hand and a person with a pint of Guinness and no toasted cheese sandwich? Could you please explain why it poses a health risk to that person?” he added.
“I really feel as if it is a crazy decision by the Government.”
Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty also raised the issue of varying the approach to unlocking coronavirus restrictions in different regions of the country.
He said: “I understand that these decisions were not arrived at lightly and I know that public health officials are concerned about the possibility of increased levels of transmission of Covid-19 at this time and we must all be guided by the public health advice in the decisions that we take.
“However, I think that we need to acknowledge that this virus is still going to be with us for some time. It is here for the medium term, if not the long term, and we need to act accordingly.”