The plan to limit indoor dining to people who are vaccinated or immune to COVID are ‘just totally hair-brained and unworkable,’ according to the owner of Dublin’s Swan Bar.
The Taoiseach this afternoon confirmed that the return of the indoor dining is being delayed until sometime after July 19th.
After that date, only people who are “fully vaccinated or recovered from COVID infection” will be allowed in.
Micheál Martin said the “Government will work urgently with the relevant sectors to agree a practical and workable approach” in the coming weeks.
On Lunchtime Live this afternoon, Ronan Lynch, owner of the Swan Bar and former Chair of the Licenced Vintners Association (LVA) said the idea is a “farce.”
“You have parents and sons coming in and people are vaccinated and others aren’t and whatnot and we are supposed to … who is going to police this?” he asked. “It doesn’t stack up at all.”
“The hotels have been open since the June 2nd. They have operated successfully; there have been no issues whatsoever.
“We should be looking at other things to bring in. This is just a totally hairbrained scheme. It shows these guys are not in touch with reality or not in touch with industry because nobody in industry would suggest this farce they are proposing.”
Ireland is very much an outlier in Europe when it comes to indoor dining with the vast majority reopening weeks or even months ago.
According to European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) figures, Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands all have similar vaccination rates to Ireland.
Indoor dining is open in every one of those countries – although Austria, Denmark and Germany require proof of negative testing or vaccination.
Crucially, all three use rapid antigen testing and have put in place huge infrastructure to ensure people can get tested free of charge.
In Germany there are now 15,000 pop-up testing centres around the country with 1,300 in Berlin alone. In Austria "Teststraßen" test centres can be used free of charge right throughout the country.
In the UK, where the Delta variant now accounts for over 90% of cases, indoor dining has been open since late May.
“NPHET are putting forward proposals which are not practical and are not workable,” said Mr Lynch.
“Antigen testing is not being used. It is an obvious solution to knowing exactly where you stand with people as they come in. We are not even looking at that. That will tell you where the mentality of NPHET is at the moment.
“They have run the country with iron force over the last 15 or 16 months and everybody has done their bit and done their duty. We expected a vaccine bonus and this is not a vaccine bonus for anyone in hospitality.”
He said he is “absolutely devastated” after another rollercoaster 24-hours.
“This is about people’s lives and their livelihoods and their plans and expectations for the future,” he said.
“Everything has just been trashed over the last 24 hours. Just terrible treatment of hospitality en-masse and no clarity. This could have all been handled a lot better and it has been just a total fudge by the Government.”
Also on the show, Fianna Fáil Senator Lisa Chambers said NPHET must come out with a full explanation of its forecasts.
“What is the science behind this?” she asked. “What is the reasoning behind this?”
“We are an outlier around Europe. We are the only member state where we haven’t indoor dining.
“I accept that there are genuine concerns about the Delta variant. We all share those concerns but we really need to be really upfront and honest with people now and give them the full picture.”
She said she has “particular difficulty” with the idea of asking younger unvaccinated people to work in hospitality while banning them from enjoying it themselves.
“We have no problem telling all of our younger people that predominantly work in retail or hospitality, yeah you can go to work, you can serve people but you can’t come back inside then to socialise afterwards,” she said.
“I think it is the wrong message to send out. We are in this together or we are supposed to be in this together and I think we need to stay in this all together.
“Younger people have sacrificed an enormous amount in the last year and a half to protect older people, to protect vulnerable people.
“At this stage of the game to be suggesting we would now split the population; that some people can move ahead and some people stay behind, I am totally opposed to that.”