‘We are worried’: Taoiseach warn plans to reopen all pubs on July 20th may be delayed

Martin says gardaí carried out about 5,500 inspections of pubs and restaurants over weekend

 Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: ‘Social distancing was not being complied with at all during a number of the inspections (of pubs and restaurants)’.  Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: ‘Social distancing was not being complied with at all during a number of the inspections (of pubs and restaurants)’. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire

 

People who go to pubs and fail to keep social distancing, as witnessed in some parts of Dublin over the weekend, could force the Government to delay the full reopening of pubs on July 20th, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has warned.

Mr Martin said the Government was deeply concerned over the scenes in some places, such as Dame Lane and Dame Court, where people were observed failing to following social distance guidelines while socialising on the street.

“As you know the full opening was to take place on July 20th … it could be delayed if they don’t behave -–we will get advice from the public health officials but we are worried about it,” he said.

“Some of the scenes that we witnessed are very worrying because social distancing was not being complied with at all during a number of the inspections and the opening hours weren’t being adhered to either.”

Speaking on The Opinion Line on Cork’s 96FM, Mr Martin revealed that gardaí had carried out about 5,500 inspections of pubs and restaurants over the weekend as part of Operation Navigation.

He said while the vast majority of publicans and restaurateurs were adhering to the Covid-19 guidelines, it was a worry that a small minority were failing to manage things properly and breaking the rules.

Mr Martin agreed with host PJ Coogan that “everyone needs to cop themselves on or the next stage may not happen”. “That’s a fair assessment, we just can’t risk it,” he said.

“The only way we can get the economy back is if we keep the community transmission of the virus down. We don’t need a second wave – a second wave would be a disaster for the country in terms of the finances.

“But there is an obligation on everybody to behave here and indeed on ourselves, the public too. Individual responsibility matters – it’s been the key from the very beginning of this virus.”

Mr Martin said at the beginning of the spread of Covid-19 people complied in terms of maintaining social distancing and hand washing etiquette, but people were no longer adhering to the guidelines as faithfully or diligently.

“That’s slipping a bit because as the numbers go down, people are getting complacent but we have seen what has happened in some European countries such as Portugal and Spain where numbers went back up,” he said.

Asked about when the Government will publish a list of “green” countries where it will be safe for Irish people to travel, Mr Martin said the matter was under constant review because the situation is changing very rapidly.

“The travel advisory for the last while had been strong – that it’s not advisable to travel overseas.

“ We have to put public health first. That is the overarching issue.

“Today the Cabinet will meet and make a formal decision on travel. We had a Cabinet sub-committee on Covid on Friday. The public health advice is extremely cautious now in relation to opening up for travel.”

He said the Government is drawing up a green list of countries, which the government believes it is safe to visit, but he cited the example of how volatile the issue is as evidence by recent surges in the US and Catalonia.

“We have countries that would have made the safe list two weeks ago wouldn’t make it today so the overarching objective is to suppress the virus and keep it down. There is a fear international travel could reignite the virus.”

Mr Martin said it was vital that Ireland continues to suppress the virus as a second surge would be disastrous for the country given that it has already cost the state something in the region of €25 billion plus in terms of supports.

The Taoiseach said there are two most urgent specific objectives in relation to Covid-19.

“To me, the two immediate priorities on the Covid side are to get our schools safely open and get as many schools fully open as possible, and that will take up a lot of effort over the next number of weeks,” he said.

If for example there was to be a spike over the next number of weeks, that could jeopardise that objective.”

Mr Martin said the second priority was people suffering from non Covid related illness and ailments that have had their diagnoses and treatments delayed because the health system was focussed on dealing with Covid cases and that needs to be addressed urgently.

“We are down to about 13 people in critical beds nationally in critical care beds which is very significant progress and a big achievement – we need to get moving and keep that capacity to enable us to deal with non Covid diseases.”