Irish restaurants call on government to shut them down

A notice about coronavirus is pictured as pub doors are locked in the Temple Bar area, as bars across Ireland close voluntarily to curb the spread of coronavirus, in Dublin, Ireland, March 15, 2020.
A notice about coronavirus is pictured as pub doors are locked in the Temple Bar area, as bars across Ireland close voluntarily to curb the spread of coronavirus, in Dublin, Ireland, March 15, 2020.
Image: REUTERS/ LORRAINE O'SULLIVAN

Ireland’s restaurant lobby group called on Monday for the government to shut the entire industry down, as it has already done with pubs.

Ireland on Sunday said all bars in the country should close until at least the end of the month to curb the spread of coronavirus, after videos of groups singing in packed Dublin venues sparked anger on social media.

Ireland, which has 169 confirmed coronavirus cases and two deaths, closed universities and schools last week, and advised people to cancel all indoor gatherings above 100 people and to keep their distance in smaller groups.

Unable to implement the “social distancing” measures, many pubs announced voluntary closures before the government shutdown, and restaurants around the country have followed suit, as cautious customers stay at home and tourists stay away.

“We want to close but they need to tell us so that everybody closes. This needs to happen this morning in the best interests of people's health,” Restaurants Association of Ireland chief executive Adrian Cummins told national broadcaster RTE.

“The staff in premises that did open, they’re appealing to their owners to say ‘I’m afraid to be working in this premise at the moment because I’m so afraid of social distancing and catching the virus’.”

Cummins estimated that 70,000 staff would lose their jobs if all restaurants shut and expected that 30,000 workers already had. Pub owners’ group the Licensed Vintners Association said on Sunday that 50,000 jobs would be affected by the pub closures.

Ireland’s economy was the fastest growing in the European Union before the outbreak, bringing the unemployment rate down to 4.8% and its workforce up to a record 2.36 million people.

The pub closures came just two days before Ireland’s national holiday, St Patrick’s Day, which traditionally sees bars across the country packed from early in the day. The annual parade celebrating the day had already been cancelled.

Speaking ahead of a twice weekly special cabinet meeting on the coronavirus, Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney said the government would give clarity on the issue later on Monday but that did not mean it will decide to close restaurants.

“We’ll make the decision when we're ready to make the decision,” Coveney told RTE. “I don’t think you're going to see any dramatic new decisions made today, I think you’ll see a refining of existing decisions trying to reassure and inform people who may be losing their jobs.” — Reuters


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