Pubs and restaurants should be allowed to serve customers outdoors after 8pm, according to a leading chef and restaurateur.
The Department of Health has reported more than 20,000 new cases every day for the past four days; however, the number of patients in ICU has remained steady.
Yesterday morning, there were 984 COVID patients in hospital with 83 in intensive care – four fewer than this day last week.
Dublin chef and restaurateur Gary Smith told Newstalk that it is now time to ease restrictions on hospitality that were put in place before Christmas.
He said many businesses have spent a lot of money developing safe outdoor spaces.
“We all invested quite heavily in outdoor spaces three or four months ago when we were told that was the way forward,” he said.
“If there is to be an 8pm curfew, I can’t understand why it has to be in place for outdoor dining especially as that was touted very, very recently by Government as where we should be spending our money.”
He said the move would help businesses keep their staff in employment.
“We are so dependent on Government guidance and it has just been so lacking recently so we don’t actually know what to do; we don’t know what to tell our staff and our teams,” he said.
“8pm, it might sound small and trivial but it makes no sense. That period between 8pm and 10pm is usually where you would balance your books.
“Nobody likes to have their meal at 4pm in the afternoon.”
It comes amid reports that some members of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) did not agree with the 8pm curfew when it was introduced.
The Irish Times reports that a number of Government ministers are increasingly sceptical about the need for the measure and would like it to be lifted, with the limit of six people per table also removed.
The paper notes that that NPHET is also considering whether to recommend the introduction of mandatory vaccination in Ireland.
Minutes of the health body’s meeting in mid-December note that the Department of Health is currently preparing a paper on the legal and ethical aspects of the policy.
NPHET agreed to discuss the issue as soon as the paper is submitted.