The Irish Times view on reopening indoor hospitality: No perfect solutions

For all the focus on hospitality over the last few weeks, more important issues remain

“Caution is appropriate, but no one is being forced to socialise indoors – nor should anyone be compelled to work there. People can engage with each other outdoors and they can opt to stay at home.” File photograph: Jaap Schaaf/EPA

“Caution is appropriate, but no one is being forced to socialise indoors – nor should anyone be compelled to work there. People can engage with each other outdoors and they can opt to stay at home.” File photograph: Jaap Schaaf/EPA

 

It is hard to disagree with the Government’s own admission that new provisions around the decision to restart indoor hospitality by July 26th are less than perfect. Safe implementation will depend largely on the behaviour and integrity of those customers who say they have been fully vaccinated or that they have recovered from the virus within the previous six months. A stark anomaly will persist over younger staff working indoors who are unlikely to have been inoculated while unvaccinated under-18-year-olds will be allowed to accompany their parents.

At this point, such concerns are no surprise. Almost every move to relax Covid-19-related restrictions has produced anomalies in trying to strike the correct balance between protecting public health and facilitating a return to normal activities. The continued closure of pubs and restaurants for indoor dining and drinking, for instance, would perpetuate the inconsistency whereby hotel bars and restaurants are open to residents while standalone facilities are not. And Ireland’s participation in the EU travel regime would permit people to travel abroad where they could avail of indoor hospitality.

Dominant Delta variant

In responding to such conflicts, protecting public health remains paramount, all the more so given the threat posed by the now dominant Delta variant. Progress in our ability to do so is measured by Covid-19 infection rates and, more significantly, hospitalisations, numbers in intensive care and, unfortunately, fatalities. But beyond these metrics, there is room for robust debate around how to balance competing interests, especially temporary arrangements introduced in haste.

Total doses distributed to Ireland Total doses administered in Ireland
8,557,330 7,049,574

It’s a welcome sign of progress that such debate has been apparent in the deliberations over how to deal with indoor hospitality. There have been many interests, some of them vested, but none have dominated. There is no carte blanche approval for Government action, nor a compliant Opposition or a silent civil society. Many more voices are starting to be heard.

Caution is appropriate, but no one is being forced to socialise indoors – nor should anyone be compelled to work there. People can engage with each other outdoors and they can opt to stay at home. After a disastrous period, the hospitality sector is being given additional relief at a critical time in its business cycle. This will boost employment and keep some businesses alive.

For all the focus on hospitality over the last few weeks, more important issues remain: the progress of the vaccination campaign and whether it can keep pace with the Delta variant; and the efficacy of test-and-trace systems as case numbers rise again. Persisting too are long-standing and critical questions about vaccine-mixing, rapid antigen testing and vaccinating children. It is time for answers.

News Digests

Stay on top of the latest newsSIGN UP HERE
The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.