Publicans ‘in no man’s land’ seek clarity on reopening from Government

Key decisions not due until next week when Nphet meets to discuss public health trends

The hospitality industry argues  lead-in times for rehiring staff, restocking kitchens and ordering alcohol supplies have been thrown into disarray. File photograph: iStock

The hospitality industry argues lead-in times for rehiring staff, restocking kitchens and ordering alcohol supplies have been thrown into disarray. File photograph: iStock

 

The Government is coming under pressure to give more certainty over the removal of Covid restrictions planned for July 5th, with the Coalition accused of “mixed messaging” by the hospitality sector.

Uncertainty is growing over plans to reopen indoor dining and drinking early next month amid concern over the impact of the more transmissible Delta variant of Covid-19.

The hospitality industry, in particular, is seeking meetings with senior Government ministers, arguing that lead-in times for rehiring staff, restocking kitchens and ordering alcohol supplies have been thrown into disarray.

Padraig Cribben, chief executive of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, said one of his members had been in touch “basically in tears” trying to figure out what was going on. The Government should have made decisions this week, even if that decision was to delay reopening, he said.

“We would have expected it was going to happen this week,” he said. “The goalposts have changed, the narrative has changed, we’re left in no man’s land.” He said many publicans had been planning to bring staff back into work next week, taking them off the pandemic unemployment payment. “If you come off the PUP, it’s not easy to get back on it. So staffing is an issue.”

The Licensed Vintners Association said an announcement at the end of next week would be too late to allow business to react to a change in policy. “The Government has to make up its mind and come to a decision this week,” Donall O’Keeffe, chief executive of the LVA said. “They can’t reasonably expect the entire hospitality industry to wait until 2nd July for what their decision will be and then be in a position to potentially reopen three days later.”

‘Speculation and uncertainty’

Senior officials and politicians met across the day on Wednesday to discuss the developing situation regarding the Delta variant of Covid-19. However, the key decisions will not be made until next week, after a meeting of the National Public Health Emergency Team has taken place and the latest trends in public health data are analysed.

The senior officials’ group met to discuss monitoring Delta and plans to launch the travel certificate on July 19th. Meanwhile, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, HSE chief executive Paul Reid and Secretary General of the Department of Health Robert Watt also discussed the variant and the vaccine programme at their weekly meeting on Wednesday.

Public health sources said the Nphet meeting for next week may be moved back to Wednesday next, but decisions would still likely not be taken until the second half of the week.

Ministers also met with small and medium businesses as part of a stakeholders forum. Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment Robert Troy said the Government is “acutely aware” of industry views on reopening.

“No decision in terms of July 5th is going to be made until next week, we’re 10 days away, which is the end of next week. A lot can happen.”

Mr Troy said he didn’t wish to “add to the speculation and uncertainty” the sector is dealing with, but that the Government’s intention, depending on the medical advice received at the time, is to “carry on with the reopening process as we have been, cautiously and in a staged manner”.