The Government expects to reopen all pubs by the middle of this month, and is finalising a new set of guidelines to be shared with publicans’ organisations in the coming days.
It is understood the reopening of the pubs will be subject to strict regulation and inspection, and will coincide with the publication of the Government’s plan for the next phase of managing the Covid-19 pandemic – the so-called “living with Covid” plan – on September 14th.
Drafts of the Department of Health’s plan have been circulated and are subject of intense discussion, with some sources believing it is overly-restrictive.
It is also understood the new plan will recast the relationship between the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) and the Government, with more collaboration and communication between the two sides on public health measures .
Senior figures in the Government are keen to get away from the model where Nphet is seen as making public health recommendations and the Government is then watering them down.
There were a further 98 confirmed Covid-19 cases reported in the State on Friday, but no further deaths. There has not been a death recorded from Covid-19 in the State since August 22nd.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said on Friday that the key priority of getting a million students back to school for September had been achieved, and that the focus would now turn to the health services.
He said there were “huge challenges” during the winter season, including the influenza season and non-Covid medicine and diagnostics.
Responding to criticism surrounding new laws requiring pubs and restaurants to retain individual details of food consumption, Mr Martin said it was “overstating it” to claim it was a communications calamity.
“The Government has no interest in knowing what people are eating,” he said, adding that the regulations had been designed to deal with rogue operators who were serving drink but not food.
Separately, Minister for Sport Catherine Martin has asked the heads of sporting organisations to examine the international evidence for spectators returning to events, and to present a case to be brought to health officials as part of preparing the Government’s new Covid roadmap later this month.
It is understood the issue was discussed at a meeting with the heads of major sporting organisations including the GAA, IRFU and FAI.
Meanwhile, publicans have privately warned the Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys of thousands of potential permanent redundancies from the middle of the month.
In the light of the pandemic the Government suspended rules on redundancy until September 17th in an effort to avoid permanent job losses. This meant an employee’s right to claim redundancy was deferred in circumstances of temporary layoff or short-time employment.
In a letter to Ms Humphreys, Donall O'Keeffe, the chief executive of the Licensed Vintners Association, called on the Government to extend the redundancy provisions until all pubs are able to trade normally.
Elsewhere, the Government has nominated Mairead McGuinness and Andrew McDowell to fill the vacancy of EU commissioner in the wake of the resignation of Phil Hogan.
In a statement the Government said the question of the allocation of roles was one for European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.
“However, the Government firmly believes that both candidates have demonstrated that they have experience, skills and capacity to serve and to make a contribution in the most demanding roles.”