The Special Committee on Covid-19 Response will meet later today as the updating of the Government’s plan on Living with Covid continues ahead of its publication this week.
Caution is a key word from Government ahead of the publication of its strategy to deal with this phase of the pandemic.
It is a plan that is likely to set out the stages at which things will happen, but due to the volatility of the virus it will not contain many exact dates.
While the Taoiseach has said that nothing is set in stone, there is a widespread expectation that most of the current restrictions could remain in place until May.
However, there will be a review of the situation in April where small changes could be made.
The Government is also likely to extend the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and supports for businesses until the end of June.
There have been calls from the hospitality sector for more financial assistance given that it faces the prospect of being shut until mid-summer.
The chief executive of the Licensed Vintners’ Association – which represents Dublin pubs – said the Government’s Living through the Pandemic Plan must provide some clarity and hope for pubs.
Many of these pubs have been shut since March 15 last year.
Donall O’Keeffe said the updated plan must paint out the conditions that must be fulfilled in order to allow the hospitality sector to re-open. Whenever we get to re-open, he said, it must be a sustainable re-opening.
“There is a sense at this stage in our world that this is never ending. And we do need some clarity, some hope that this sacrifice will pay off and that our businesses will be able to reopen,” he stated.
Mr O’Keeffe said the sector had anticipated re-opening in May or June but this now seems unlikely.
Poor communications from the Government are adding “ferocious stress” to the 7,000 publican families in the country, their staff and their suppliers, he added.
He said that political signalling around the future of wet pubs is very negative and there must be an immediate increase in the level of financial support for these businesses.
Donall O’Keeffe said the Government must re-double payments at a minimum to allow them cover fixed costs and remain in a position to re-open in the future and recover their businesses.
12 months closed with huge uncertainty about re-opening is a very difficult position to be in, he said.
Mr O’Keeffe said he would welcome any extension to trading hours and there is a huge consumer demand for late trading at the weekends while tourists also “look for a late scene” and that 5am seven nights a week to the sector should be available – under strict conditions.
He added that while things are currently “appallingly bad” for wet pubs, they are even even worse for late bars and nightclubs.
But he said they will re-open, and when they do, later trading will be of great benefit to the whole industry.