It is “not proportionate to penalise” entire sectors with Covid-19 restrictions because some people are choosing not to get vaccinated against the disease, Irish publicans have said.
A plan to ease most remaining restrictions on October 22nd is now in doubt after a key public health adviser to the Government said the national situation is “on a knife edge” amid rising infections and hospital admissions.
The removal of social distancing guidelines, which would open up capacity in the bar and restaurant sector, and the reopening of nightclubs, are among the final restrictions scheduled to be lifted.
Responding to reports on Thursday that a further reopening could be delayed, the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) said there was no guarantee the status of those who are unvaccinated will change, no matter how long the reopening is delayed.
“The latest suggestion that there will be a further delay to the easing of restrictions has left us asking when will it all be enough?” said Donall O’Keeffe, chief executive of the LVA.
“It doesn’t seem in any way proportionate that entire sectors should be penalised because some people are choosing not to take the vaccine. Already this speculation is having an appalling impact on businesses, staff and suppliers who were all focused on reopening in a week’s time.
Do they really expect those who are unvaccinated to change their minds?
“If the reopening is delayed, what indications are there that people who are unvaccinated will change their minds?
“The HSE has done a tremendous job with the rollout of the vaccine. By now any adult in this country who wishes to receive their full quota of the vaccine has had plenty of opportunity to do so.
“So if the Government does decide to kick this can down the road again do they really expect those who are unvaccinated to change their minds?”
The LVA said businesses in its sector were “still operating under severe restrictions” while late night venues such as nightclubs and late bars are yet to reopen.
It warned that any further delaying to reopening would mean the Budget “will also need to be reworked.”
“The supports announced for our sector were based on the full resumption of activity,” Mr O’Keeffe said.
“If the Government changes their mind about the reopening then this will have a really significant domino effect on the recovery of the hospitality sector and they will need to come back to the table with package that addresses the further uncertainty.”
Earlier on Thursday, the Minister for Foreign Affairs said the recent rise in Covid infections was a “warning shot” for the Government.
“Sometimes Government has to make the right decision even if it is unpopular,” Simon Coveney told Newstalk radio.
Epidemiologist Professor Philip Nolan meanwhile said the virus was spreading “subtly and slowly” through the vaccinated population, while he also called on the 300,000 people in the Republic who are not yet vaccinated to do so.
It comes amid increasing doubt within the Government on plans to remove almost all restrictions in just over a week’s time.
The Cabinet is due to evaluate advice from public health officials next week to decide if remaining restrictions can be eased on October 22nd as planned.
Senior officials and political aides were on Wednesday briefed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) that the path of infection had taken an unexpected negative turn, and that all key indicators of the disease were now performing badly.