Restaurant operators complain Nphet not involved in reopening talks with Government

Government facing increased calls for antigen testing to be used in indoor hospitality sector

Restaurant operators have said it is essential that the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) is involved in talks on the re-opening of indoor hospitality which are to take place with Government on Monday.

Groups representing restaurants and pubs are to press the Government for a plan with a specific date to allow them to resume services indoors.

Service inside restaurants and bars had been due to resume on Monday as part of the next phase of easing Covid-19 restrictions.

However, the Government decided last week to delay this element of the reopening plan on foot of advice from Nphet over concerns about the spread of the Delta variant.

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Government Ministers held initial talks with representatives of the hospitality sector last week and these discussions are scheduled to resume on Monday.

Urgency

The Restaurants Association of Ireland said on Sunday the Government must set a date for the reopening of indoor hospitality as a matter of urgency.

Association chief executive Adrian Cummins said the sector was now “working towards July 19th as the reopening date”.

He said Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly “must instruct Nphet to attend - negotiations need swift and accurate decisions in order to restart Indoor Hospitality as soon as possible”.

The Government is facing increased calls for antigen testing to be introduced to facilitate a re-opening of the indoor hospitality sector.

Mr Cummins said antigen testing needed to be looked at and it was critical that Nphet representatives were in the room at the talks on Monday.

Pádraig Cribben of the Vintners Federation of Ireland said it wanted a new plan, not one that was ready for July 19th but one that would allow its members to open on July 19th.

“That is important because at this time of the year to lose a week is the equivalent to losing about six weeks in the wintertime”, he said.

On Saturday, Minister of State Ossian Smyth negative Covid-19 tests will be “in the mix” when Government formulates plans to allow the reopening of indoor dining with the hospitality industry

He said discussions with the sector would take place on Monday and stressed it was important people were not excluded from participating in indoor hospitality on the basis of their age.

“What’s a really important principle is that people are not excluded because of their age, if the vaccination rollout hasn’t reached their age or, for example, if they are immune-compromised and they couldn’t take a vaccine, that they don’t get excluded,” Mr Smyth said.

“There has to be an option for everybody and certainly tests are there in the mix. But then again I can’t prejudge what’s going to happen before we work it out with the restaurants.”

He was speaking on RTÉ Radio One on Saturday. Earlier this week it was announced the planned reopening of indoor hospitality on July 5th would be delayed.

Specifics

Later on Saturday, Mr Martin declined to be drawn on the specifics of Government plans for indoor dining.

Mr Martin was asked whether the Government planned to use the EU Digital Covid-19 cert showing that somebody had been vaccinated as a so-called ‘Corona pass’ for indoor dining, or whether it planned to use separate certificates.

He said it was too early to speculate on what would emerge.

“We’re proceeding with the digital Covid certificate in respect of travel, that work is well underway, and pretty good progress has been made on that but it’s far too early to say whether that would be applied to the domestic situation,” he said.

“I’m not going to speculate on the precise measures we’re going to take to help the return of indoor hospitality. We’re going to engage with the representative bodies of hospitality about indoor dining, and to work out what’s most effective in terms of facilitating the safe reopening of that sector.”

Mr Martin said that it was particularly important that the Government engage with the hospitality sector regarding the re-opening of indoor dining in the context of the growth of the much more contagious Delta variant of Covid-19 and the increased volume of cases it is expected to generate.

He was speaking in Cork where he launched the 2020 Annual Progress Report for the Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times