- September 1, 2021
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Representatives of the restaurant and hospitality sector have given a cautious welcome to the Government’s easing of Covid-19 restrictions announced on Tuesday evening. File photograph: John G Mabanglo/EPA
Opposition politicians and hospitality industry representatives on Tuesday night welcomed the Government’s latest plan to unwind Covid-19 restrictions, but called for supports for workers and businesses not to be removed too quickly.
Labour Party leader Alan Kelly said the reopening plan contained “welcome news for many parts of our society and economy”.
However, he said there was concern that cuts to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) were set to kick in next week even though some sectors have been unable to return to full or partial employment. Mr Kelly said Covid-19 had been a “game-changer” and that the Government should address issues around endemic rates of low pay and insecure work in many sectors.
Sinn Féin health spokesman David Cullinane welcomed the plan, and said the focus now needed to shift to “rebuilding the economy, building homes, cutting rents” and other policy matters.
“Politics as usual needs to be replaced with the politics of change,” he said.
Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall said the announcement marked “a new dawn in our fight against Covid as we make preparations for what will hopefully be the final unravelling of the restrictions that have dominated all of our lives for so long”.
She also called for PUP and employment supports to be retained “until the entire edifice of public health guidelines” had been dismantled.
Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI) chief executive Adrian Cummins said the announcement “goes a long way” in outlining a roadmap for the restaurant and hospitality sector, but he added that “work must be done regarding business supports for an industry economically flattened since March 2020”.
He claimed more than 50 per cent of restaurants were “on the verge of collapse” and called for pandemic wage support to continue at current rates until next June, and for a 9 per cent VAT rate to remain in place until 2025.
Padraig Cribben, chief executive of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI), which represents pubs outside of Dublin, said it was “a relief” that the pub trade now had a date to plan for all restrictions on their operations being removed.
“The end of table service and return of bar counters [from October 22nd] is probably the most significant news for many of our members.”
Representatives of the live events industry said the fact that organised indoor events would from Monday be permitted at 60 per cent of venue capacity, if all attendees are either fully vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 in the previous six months, was “a start”.
Event Industry Alliance chairman Dan MacDonnell said the industry would be pushing for 100 per cent capacity in order to be “viable”. “People are getting back to work so we are going in the right direction,” he said.
Fórsa, the State’s largest public service trade union, said the proposed phased return to the workplace must be safe and build on the positive experience of “blended working” during the pandemic. It said State employers “should show a lead on remote working”.
The Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation (Ibec) welcomed clarity on a timeline for a phased return to offices.
“The next challenge is to address office logistics, social distancing, and other control measures, as well as consistency in managing close contacts,” Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy said.
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