Closure of nightclubs and limits on household mixing over Christmas advised by Nphet

ireland
Closure Of Nightclubs And Limits On Household Mixing Over Christmas Advised By Nphet Closure Of Nightclubs And Limits On Household Mixing Over Christmas Advised By Nphet
Nphet recommended a maximum of six people at a table in bars and restaurants and the closure of nightclubs until January 9th. Photo: PA
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Further Covid-19 restrictions for the Christmas period are expected to be discussed by the Government on Friday.

The Cabinet meeting at 3pm follows on from a meeting of the Covid-19 sub-committee this morning.

Reduced capacity in pubs and indoor hospitality, as well as limits on the number of households that can mix are all likely to be considered, according to The Irish Times,

On Thursday evening, the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) met to make the further recommendations to Government following the emergence of the new Omicron variant.

In a letter to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, Nphet recommended a maximum of six people at a table in bars and restaurants and the closure of nightclubs until January 9th.

It is understood that, if approved by Cabinet, people may also be asked to restrict the number of households they mix with over Christmas with three households permitted to visit a fourth.

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Nphet also recommened that the vaccination pass should be extended to “high risk” venues such as gyms and hotels “with appropriate exemptions as required”.

According to The Irish Times, a number of sources have said that due to the potential of the new Omicron variant spreading quickly, it would be difficult for the Government not to impose any recommendations from Nphet.

Concerns over hospitality sector

Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath met with representatives from the hospitality sector amid ongoing concerns over the impact of Covid-19 on business.

Industry representatives raised concerns over Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) being cut earlier this week and called for a comprehensive support package for the sector.

After the meeting, the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) said the discussions had been “positive and constructive”.

“While no decision was made at the meeting, Government has confirmed that hospitality businesses will be supported over the next number weeks due to recognition that business has substantially declined,” RAI chief executive Adrian Cummins said.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said the Government will move "as quickly as it can" to review the latest Covid recommendations proposed by Nphet. Photo: PA

The Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) also described the talks as “constructive”.

“Government has committed to avoiding uncertainty about new restrictions continuing into the weekend, so we expect further developments later today,” the group said in a statement.

Changes to Covid supports

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The CEO of the business representative group IBEC, Danny McCoy, insists that the Government needs to tweak the EWSS and adapt the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme given the new Covid restrictions which will be discussed at Cabinet level this afternoon.

Mr McCoy told RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne that whilst the economy is performing very strongly certain sectors such as restaurants and publicans are hugely impacted by the reduced demand.

"This time around we are seeing the tactic is to let it open to keep the supplies intact but try to reduce demand. I think everyone realises we need some demand suppression to take control of this," Mr McCoy said.

"But I must say it is surprising given the stabilisation which is occurring across in the case in hospitalisation and ICU that we are going for the restrictions and that needs to be kept monitored throughout all this," he added.

"We are going to need to have some sensitivity for reduced demand as opposed to outright closures. We need to be prudent.

"We don't need a panic reaction here. People are reacting and reducing their demand and footfall and offices have been withdrawn over the last few weeks.

"There is still uncertainty, obviously. But creating the conditions now that we do this sensibly and realise that there will be industries impacted by demand going down and that the measures be put in place."

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Mr McCoy said resources need to be put forward for where businesses experience demand fall.

"People have been gearing back up and training their staff. It is important to keep those staff attached to the business," he said.

"That is why the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme may need some tweaks. And the CRSS scheme for when you were fully closed down may need to be adapted to reflect the new realities now. "

'Flip-flopping'

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee has said the Government will move "as quickly as it can" in terms of examining the latest Covid recommendations proposed by Nphet.

However, she stressed that they need to be given time to "look at this advice and take it on board."

In an interview on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Ms McEntee said that the Government has to ensure that they are clear about what they are doing and why they are doing it.

"Of course if there are impacts on businesses at any stage of this, I hope people would agree that we haven't left people wanting," she said.

"We have always responded where business has needed additional income. Where individuals have lost their jobs. We have always provided that support. This won't be any different."

Ms McEntee said she was particularly conscious that they have asked people to pull back and to reduce their social contacts.

"I am talking to businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector, and I know the impact that is having on them.

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"This should be their busiest time, and it's not. We are taking this on board. We are going to support all of these businesses as we have always done during the pandemic."

Ms McEntee refuted suggestions of Government flip-flopping or there is confusion behind the scenes. She added that we are in a "fluid situation" because of the nature of the Covid virus.

"What we have seen with the antigen test is that the market has corrected itself," she explained.

"That wasn't a matter of flip flops or changing. We simply saw the market adjust itself. It is not about Government changing direction. We have to change direction sometimes because of the nature of this pandemic. Everybody is doing their best here." – Additional reporting: Olivia Kelleher

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