Covid-19: Plan for easing restrictions criticised by hospitality and construction groups

Organisations for restaurants and pubs hit out at lack of clarity for such businesses

Taoiseach Micheál Martin addresses the nation at Government Buildings in Dublin on Tuesday. Photograph: Julien Behal Photography/PA Wire

Taoiseach Micheál Martin addresses the nation at Government Buildings in Dublin on Tuesday. Photograph: Julien Behal Photography/PA Wire

 

The Government’s plan to ease Covid-19 restrictions has been criticised by hospitality and construction industry groups, as well as by Opposition politicians.

While hoteliers welcomed the indication in the plan that they may be able to reopen in June, organisations representing restaurants and pubs hit out at the lack of clarity for their businesses.

Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) chief executive Adrian Cummins said the Government announcement on the easing strategy on Tuesday had “no dates, no metrics, no plan, no hope for our industry”.

He said that RAI members don’t understand why Taoiseach Micheál Martin mentioned hotels in his speech announcing the plan on Tuesday evening but not the rest of the hospitality industry.

Mr Cummins told Virgin Media News: “You don’t have a tourism industry if you don’t have restaurants reopened.”

The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) criticised the “continued absence of a coherent roadmap” for reopening pubs.

Chief executive Padraig Cribben said this information vacuum is causing “severe distress” for publicans and pub workers. He said: “We need a plan that links the vaccine rollout to reopening.”

Asked about dissatisfaction in the hospitality industry, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he’d like to give these businesses and workers clarity about when they can reopen, but it’s not possible to offer that at this time. He said that financial supports for businesses will stay in place until at least the end of June. Mr Martin added: “As vaccinations ramp up, opportunities arise.”

Suggestion welcomed

The Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) welcomed a suggestion by Mr Martin that the reopening of hotels and guesthouses in June is to be considered towards the end of May. IHF president Elaina Fitzgerald Kane said she hoped it would increase confidence that people will be able to have a holiday in Ireland this summer amid “historically low bookings” for July and August.

The Construction Industry Federation (CIF), however, said it is “deeply disappointed” at the phased return to sites for builders laid out in the plan, saying that more than 20,000 construction workers will now remain out of work until May due to continued lockdown measures.  

Director general Tom Parlon claimed the decision is a “complete own-goal”.

The Irish Hairdressers Federation welcomed the indication of a May reopening for hairdressers, but called for “greater clarity” on the dates involved.

Business lobby group Ibec has said that it is positive to see some unwinding of Covid restrictions planned over the coming weeks, but stressed that greater certainty is still needed on further reopening of the economy.

Eviction ban

Housing charity Threshold raised concern at the impact the lifting of the 5km travel limit, one of the measures in the plan, will have on the eviction ban, which lapses when the 5km limit is not in place.

While the Government has put in place protections for renters whose income has been hit by the pandemic, Threshold chairperson Aideen Hayden said other renters are left “exposed”. Threshold said it has more than 1,000 termination cases carried over from 2020.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that for the Government’s plan to be successful the “building blocks” of testing, contact tracing, the rollout of vaccines and quarantine have to be done right. She claimed on RTÉ News that the Government has “failed to deliver” on these issues.

Labour Party leader Alan Kelly said that while a timetable on some relaxing of restrictions has now been announced, most people “are still no wiser as to when they will be vaccinated”.

Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall said it’s “surprising” the Taoiseach set out a phased easing of restrictions based on dates, “given that the Government’s previous plan emphasised that any change would be based on data instead”. She said that, given the current high number of cases of Covid-19, “one would have expected the Government’s response to be based on modelling with real-time data rather than arbitrary dates”.