Ireland is to keep its pubs shut – Europe’s longest such lockdown – to try to tame Covid-19 infection rates.
Health officials have recommended that “wet” pubs that do not serve food should not open on 31 August, as previously planned.
It will be the third time authorities have extended restrictions on the pubs, which shut in March and were initially due to reopen in July. Pubs that serve food reopened in late June.
Ronan Glynn, Ireland’s acting chief medical officer, said on Thursday that wet pubs, about half of Ireland’s 7,000 pubs, should stay shut amid a rising infection rate of 33 per 100,000 people. “In the context of schools opening and the number of cases in hospital beginning to rise, it’s not the time to open pubs,” he told a media briefing.
The government is expected to endorse the recommendation on Friday and to approve a crackdown on pubs that are open and violating restrictions. Police are to gain powers to shut a pub immediately if they believe there are breaches of public health guidelines.
Asked about Ireland having the EU’s longest pub lockdown, Glynn said authorities were aware of the impact on small family businesses and the social life of communities. “We want pubs to reopen, let’s be clear about that. We want pubs to reopen in a safe way. But since the end of June, we have seen a slow and steady deterioration of the profile of this disease in this country.”
Authorities in Northern Ireland announced on Wednesday that wet pubs would not open next week, as previously planned, because of an increase in coronavirus cases.
Other EU countries let bars and pubs resume trading several months ago with social distancing restrictions.
Italy and Germany did so in May followed by France, Spain and the Netherlands in June. Pubs in England reopened on 4 July, followed by Wales (initially outdoors only) on 13 July and Scotland on 15 July. Sweden and Latvia have kept pubs open throughout the pandemic. In Romania pubs and bars can operate only if they have open-air terraces.
The Drinks Industry Group of Ireland, an advocacy group, called for urgent state help. “The drinks and hospitality industry needs support now, otherwise we risk permanently losing hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs, just as we did in the 2008 recession.”
A formerly wet pub in County Mayo in the west of Ireland reopened this week as a cafe, turning bar staff into baristas. The Bridge Street bar in Castlebar serves coffee, other non-alcoholic drinks and muffins.
Source: The Guardian