The Tánaiste Leo Varadkar announced today (19 October) the revised plans for reopening the Republic of Ireland. Restrictions on night-time economy will be eased but some public health measures will continue until at least February 2022.
Normal trading will resume in pubs, restaurants and other hospitality outlets. Nightclubs can reopen on Friday after being closed for over a year. There will be some restrictions and the new rules will most likely involve Covid-19 passes, contact tracing and wearing of masks except for while dancing, drinking and eating.
There will be no capacity limits on religious services and weddings, and the return to workplaces will continue on a “phased and cautious” basis.
In his speech, the Tánaiste said that the country was not where it hoped to be with Covid-19 infections. Cases had taken a turn for the worse in the past few weeks, causing a rise in hospitalisations.
Mr Varadkar said: “The pandemic isn’t over yet. We’re going to have get through at least another winter before we can say it’s behind us.”
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said a booster vaccine programme for people aged 60 and over would begin “immediately”, following a recommendation from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac).
Irish Hotel Federation Support Government Efforts
The IHF President Elaina Fitzgerald Kane stated: “Hoteliers fully support Government efforts to supress the virus. While disappointing that there is a need for a continuation of current requirements for Covid certs, we support this public health measure.
Nonetheless the retention of restrictions means that the economic circumstances on which the decision to withdraw supports was based no longer exist. Instead, we are facing the kind of cliff-edge in December that the Government assured us we would avoid.”
Ms Fitzgerald Kane expressed serious concerns about the withdrawal of the EWSS employment support scheme. This would impact on hospitality businesses that may experience a seasonal Christmas uplift, thereby excluding them from further support during the months of January to April when business levels fall off dramatically. She urged the Government to provide a sector specific exemption for hospitality businesses.
Additionally, she called on the Government to reconsider the failure in the recent budget to extend the rates waiver beyond December 2021, stating: “Hoteliers cannot be expected to pay rates based on historical business levels that no longer exist and will take years to restore.
Ms. Fitzgerald Kane also called on the Government to commit to extending the 9% VAT rate for tourism and hospitality after August 2022 as a key competitive measure to support recovery. The current 9% rate is the correct rate for our sector and is in line with our European counterparts whereas a return to the 13.5% rate means Ireland will have the second highest VAT rate in Europe at a time when we are facing unprecedented inflationary pressures which will inhibit our competitiveness and recovery.