The reaction of the hospitality industry in Ireland
On the 29th of June, the Irish government announced to the nation that indoor restaurants that were due to open on July 5th would have to keep their doors closed until a new plan is drawn up on July 19th.
In an even more shocking statement, Micheál Martin said that when indoor dining is allowed to commence, access will be limited to those who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19.
This recommendation is said to be derived from NEPHET guidelines yet has caused massive confusion amongst industry workers.
Owner of Devour Bakery and café in Ballinrobe Co. Mayo, Yvonne Higgins-Murphy speaks to The Hotel and Restaurant Times about her reaction to the announcement:
“I can’t say I’m outraged about not opening, I am outraged because I am questioning what is going on. That makes me worry about the future more because as a country we are making decisions that are different to the decisions of other countries.”
“What do we know that the U.K don’t know. I know the U.K are opening and there are high transmissions are high, but their hospital and ICU admissions are not. Is it that our healthcare system is really that bad? Why are we still holding back?”
According to Gov.Uk, the data shows that the daily death rate in the U.K. has dropped tremendously since January when the rollout of the vaccine was just beginning.
The figures show a daily death rate of 1359 people on 19th of January, drop to 31 on April first and as low as 7 on 23rd of June.
Ourworldindata.org shows that hospital admissions in England were as high as 3812 on the 12th of January, whereas the drop of admissions for the country has been as low as 258 on July 1st.
This week BBC reported that over 46 million people in the U.K have had a first vaccine dose. That means that close to 90% of the adult population have had one shot, whilst the publication also disclosed that over “35 million – around two-thirds of adults – have had both doses.”
Mrs Higgins-Murphy said: “I cannot understand how we are a year on, and we still haven’t got the answers, yet the U.K, US and other countries are all opened up. They are taking the chances so they must be reading something that we are not.”
Looking at the Irish data, Reuters COVID-19 TRACKER reported that the highest number of new infections since February have been reported in Ireland this week, with 12 deaths reported on July 14th, the highest since, April 28th.
Currently, indoor pubs, restaurants and cafés are not allowed open, whilst cinemas, hotels, outdoor restaurants, and pubs can receive custom. Purchasing takeaway pints and other alcoholic drinks are also permitted.
“The pub situation is quite different to a café situation. All hospitality is put under the one umbrella, but they are all quite different in the culture they provide for the society “said Yvonne.
“What I provide for the town is quite different from what the pub provides. Parents with small kids don’t go into the pub for a sandwich after school, but they would come into Devour as its safer for them with no drunk people there.”
Speaking of how her café runs, Yvonne speaks of how her premises is fully compliant with Covid19 regulations and alcohol consumption would be minimal:
“Devour is a very controlled environment, where I have a wine licence but have chosen not to serve wine during the day. We are a very family orientated business, making teas and coffees, for older people after mass” added Yvonne.
Reuters data also discloses that Ireland has administered 4,995,719 doses of COVID vaccines so far, stating that “assuming every person needs 2 doses, that is enough to have vaccinated about 50.5% of the country’s population.”
Yvonne questions the pace at which Ireland’s vaccine is being rolled out as she had to close her café, shop, and bakery this week when one of her employees tested positive for Covid19:
“None of us are fully vaccinated, 2 out of 11 of us had one shot, all other staff members are between the ages of 18-26.”
“I did the sums, if we were 8 weeks ahead on the vaccination process, I wouldn’t have had to close my business because most of my staff would be vaccinated. That’s two months behind and you have to ask yourself why” added Yvonne.
Speaking of her experience with the HSE and Public Health Authority, Yvonne says he was shocked at the way things were handled when she reported a case of Covid19 amongst her staff members:
“HSE and the Public Health Authority gave me every outlet to open. They said that kitchen staff would not be deemed a close contact with restaurant staff, but I said you have not seen my kitchen.”
What frustrated Yvonne the most, was when she offered to supply her contact tracing to the Public Health Authority, who told her they did not require the list:
“I offered to supply them with my contact tracing list, and they said we do not need that. I explained the waitress with Covid had served tables and they still did not want it. I asked why I was doing contact tracing and was told it was used in the case of a customer got covid.”
“I registered for Failte Ireland COVID-19 Safety Charter and at our on-the-spot inspection two weeks ago the inspector told me about the importance of contact tracing. I was so strict – and then to be told by the public health authority that they didn’t need it.”
Asked about how she feels about bringing in a rule that would me all indoor diners are vaccinated, Yvonne said that this proposal is not practical:
“There seems to be a misunderstanding the hospitality staff are all in their 40s and fully vaccinated. I have a staff member who has a medical condition, and it prevents her from getting the vaccine.”
Adrian Cummins, CEO of the Restaurants Association of Ireland said the reaction to the government announcement was “extremely disappointing”.
“It was a devastating blow for our industry, essentially it was last minute and put our industry in a precarious position, we were all set to reopen for indoor dining.”
“We were extremely disappointed with it and how it was informed to us, we were gearing up to open 20,000 businesses and bring 180,000 workers back to work, and the uncertainty around that didn’t help.”
“We want to make sure that when we open, we reopen fully. We are clear that the new regime that’s been put in place along with the legislation, where frameworks are better, and it will be hard for governments to shut us down in future” added Mr Cummins.
Adrian disclosed that the industry is moving forward now to prepare to open indoor dining on the 26th of July. Asked if he felt the rise of cases this week would impact this decision Mr Cummins said:
“The government have been noticeably clear on this that the data that they have from Israel and Scotland, is the data that they are using now to allow hospitality to open in Ireland.”
“The translation of cases to hospitalisations or ICU admissions is nowhere near where we were post-Christmas 2020. The vaccine wall is working.”
Asked if he felt that if the vaccine rollout in Ireland was quicker, would the hospitality industry been able to go ahead with indoor dining on the 5th of July Mr Cummins said: “It is down to supply, once the million doses from Romania arrive it will make a huge difference for us. We need a plan going forward that we have vaccine boosters managed to protect those that are high risk.”