NPHET has recommended that bars and restaurants close at 5 p.m. to combat an increase in the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
In a letter from Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly last night, Nphet also recommended that attendance at outdoor events be limited to 50pc or 5,000 attendees.
The public health team also advised that indoor theaters, cinemas, entertainment, cultural and sporting events should also be subject to a 5 p.m. curfew and an attendance limit of 50pc.
The recommendation that participation in outdoor entertainment and sporting events be limited to 50% or 5,000 participants is expected to come into effect from next Monday, Nphet advised.
The recommendation to drastically reduce hospitality hours came as a shock to the industry.
Government ministers did not expect such severe restrictions.
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The Restaurant Association of Ireland described the 5pm curfew as an “effective shutdown order” of hospitality.
“A proposal to close the hotel industry at 5 p.m. is actually a lockdown of the industry,” said chief executive Adrian Cummins.
âThis is another economic blow to an industry already flattened by restrictions over the past two years.
“We call on the government to implement a sufficient financial support program that will support the industry at a critical time.”
Dr Holohan’s letter was sent to party leaders late last night. Cabinet ministers will meet today to discuss Nphet’s advice and to decide on the level of activities families will be allowed to enjoy over the Christmas period.
It comes amid growing acceptance that the Omicron variant of Covid-19 already has a strong foothold here. Government sources told Independent.ie they are planning new restrictions on home visits, the hospitality industry and large gatherings.
HSE Clinical Director Dr Colm Henry said even the quietest voices now say they are more worried than at any time during the pandemic.
A number of major rugby and horse racing matches are scheduled during the Christmas period.
Covid passes and fixed capacity limits currently do not apply to outdoor events. The team of Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan has also reportedly discussed whether to tighten the rules around home visits.
Currently, a person is allowed to welcome visitors from only three other households into their home.
Executives in the hospitality industry have said the 5pm curfew for pubs and restaurants that nphet recommended to the cabinet yesterday is essentially a “lockdown” for the industry.
Restaurants Association of Ireland chief executive Adrian Cummins said its members were “shocked” when details of Nphet’s letter leaked last night and that if implemented the measures would put its members in a very uncertain position.
“It is affectively a lockdown on hospitality if Nphet’s recommendation is taken into account by the government,” he told RTÃ’s Morning Ireland program.
âIt’s a shock to our industry. This is devastating news for our industry at a critical time; a few days before Christmas not only to the owner of the company, but also to the staff.
âWe have to start living with Covidâ¦ we need a plan to live with Covid and we have called for that,â he added.
His comments were echoed by Cork City and County President of the Irish Winegrowers’ Federation, Michael O’Donovan, who told the program that many pubs that do not serve food will not be able to continue to operate. trade with a closing time of 5 p.m.
He argued that many people anticipated that the closing time could be reduced to 10:30 or 11:00 p.m., but the proposed 5:00 p.m. closure “would be a real hammer blow” to the pub industry.
âIt would be closed for a lot because a lot of pubs that wouldn’t do food, wouldn’t really be open at lunchtime. A lot of pubs wouldn’t open until four or five in the afternoon, so closing at five would actually mean closing for most, âhe explained.
Mr O’Donovan added that he “hopes” that the government minister will listen to Nphet’s advice, but make his own changes to it and trust the public to run his businesses safely.
Meanwhile, Mr Cummins and Mr O’Donovan said if the shutdown is brought back to 5 p.m., the government must introduce more financial supports to keep businesses alive.
âIf the government adopts a 5 pm curfew, we are now in a position to further support our industry. We need to engage with the government with immediate effect on this because we are in a very precarious position for our industry just days away from Christmas, âCummins said.
âIf they implement this plan, all we have in place right now is the EWSS – the wage subsidy program (for jobs). So if they do this we will absolutely need them to survive because we are generating a lot of income for the months of January and February through the month of December and now to be effectively closed and also with the campaigns of the last two weeks, they chased the business out of our companies; we’ve seen massive cancellations, âadded O’Donovan.
“So if they proceed today, we need major supports, otherwise a lot of people will not survive into the spring of next year.”