- 27 Nov 20
The announcement that Ireland would move from Level 5 to Level 3 had been expected – but for some, the devil is in the detail as 'wet pubs' remain closed and face masks are recommended for wider use than before...
The Taoiseach Micheál Martin has confirmed that Ireland is to move from Level 5 to Level 3 – with what are being labelled ‘modifications’ – from this coming Tuesday.
Micheál Martin (pictured with the Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar) unveiled a mantra that is well familiar by now. “This cannot and will not be the kind of Christmas we are used to,” he said, "but it will be a very special time when we will all be able to enjoy some respite from the hardships of 2020."
There was some surprise, however, at a recommendation that masks should be worn all the time, in “busy outdoor settings”, as well as in shops or other places indoors.
The new plan – approved by Cabinet today – will allow all retail outlets, hairdressers, libraries, gyms and museums to open from December 1. As revealed earlier on hotpress.com, people will also be able to attend religious services, as well as being allowed to play tennis and golf.
There was some positive news also for restaurants, hotel restaurants and pubs that "have a kitchen” – all of which will be allowed to open from Friday December 4. The decision was taken despite warnings from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). However, restrictions in relation to numbers have not yet been finalised – and they may still make it difficult to make sense of opening for many businesses.
"We are trusting business owners and their customers’,” the Taoiseach said. "We all have personal individual responsibility and by closely following the rules we believe we can make this reopening sustainable." That, as they say, remains to be seen.
There was consternation among vintners, however, with so called wet pubs being told that they have to remain closed except for takeaway drinks. And the prognosis for live music venues also seems negative, given that venue areas generally operate without food – though it will be interesting to see how loosely the restrictions are interpreted.
Travel restrictions are also due to be lightened for the Christmas “holiday” period. From December 18 till January 6, people can travel around the country more or less freely. The restrictions on house visits have also been lessened, with a new three-household only rule being applied to indoor gatherings. There was also word that the issue of travel to Northern Ireland will be examined again by Government closer to 18 December. The North still has a far higher rate of Covid-19 than Ireland.
Among the other recommendations from the government is that people should continue to work from home.
At the press briefing, the Taoiseach made the point that Ireland had "pushed the virus back” and that we now have the second lowest rate in Europe.
Meanwhile, the Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar announced that the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme would remain in place at the current rate until January 2021. He also said that the Pandemic Unemployment Payment remains in place for new entrants and re-entrants to the workforce. If an employee loses his or her job – or a business has to close again, resulting in loss of employment – employees will be able to reapply for PUP.
“We are spending €1 billion a month on the various supports and we'll keep doing that for as long as necessary,” the Green Party leader Eamon Ryan told reporters.
But as one wag put it, that is the very least they can do...