‘Busy’ weekend sparks public transport debate in Government

Hospitality’s uniform 11.30pm closing results in festive crowds trying to get home at same time

‘That was the one thing we heard about . . . that when people were coming out around that time, there’s a lot of people around.’ File photograph: Getty

‘That was the one thing we heard about . . . that when people were coming out around that time, there’s a lot of people around.’ File photograph: Getty

 

Government officials are set for discussions on how to handle public transport over the Christmas after a “busy” weekend following reopening of the hospitality sector.

Liz Canavan, assistant secretary general in the Department of the Taoiseach, said there had been reports of demand for buses and taxis around the same time due to the uniform 11.30pm closing of the hospitality sector now in place.

“We did get some feedback on the 11.30pm closing and people just getting buses and taxis and all of that,” she said. “We’re going to ask the [National Transport Authority] and the Department of Transport to fill us in on what their plans are,” she said on Monday. “That was the one thing we heard about . . . that when people were coming out around that time, there’s a lot of people around.” She said the first weekend following reopening of the hospitality sector had been “busy, no doubt”, but that early indications from the Garda and Fáilte Ireland were that there were good levels of compliance “and people were just very much doing their best”.

With projected travel into the State significantly down on normal levels, Ms Canavan urged people who did not have an essential reason to come back to Ireland to stay away at Christmas.

“Looking at the travel projections for the Christmas period, we expect air passenger numbers to be about 90 per cent down and last year’s figures and ferry passengers numbers to be about 60 per cent down. Most people who normally travel aren’t coming home for Christmas. This is a great sacrifice and one we should all be grateful for,” she said.

She also addressed reports that some restaurant and pub owners are finding it difficult to convince people to come off the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. She said even those returning to work this week could still expect a bonus payment for Christmas, and they would be eligible to sign up again for the payment after the festive period if they again lost their job.

Meeting outside

Ms Canavan urged people to keep their contacts to a minimum. She said that when out socialising the advice is not to move between multiple venues. “Remember, you’re at risk even when you are in a controlled environment,” she said. Those planning to meet with vulnerable relatives over Christmas should also consider not meeting friends for a meal, but perhaps instead meeting outside.

She said there is a direct correlation between the number of contacts people have and rate of virus progression. “That’s why we keep saying every contact counts. So just because you can move around and do more things doesn’t mean you have to. Socialising is discretionary, so use your discretion,” she said.

“The end of the chain that might start in the restaurant among close friends or family, can end up with a family member or a friend in hospital – someone who’s been careful and has trusted those around them.”