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harsh warning Hospitality sector told following Covid guidelines is essential to keeping ‘current level of openness’


Dr Tony Holohan said the rise in case numbers was concerning. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Dr Tony Holohan said the rise in case numbers was concerning. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Dr Tony Holohan said the rise in case numbers was concerning. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The hospitality sector has been warned that compliance with Covid-19 guidelines is “essential” if the Government is to continue with the “current level of openness”.

The industry was yesterday called by the Department of the Taoiseach to a meeting which will take place next Tuesday, and warned that a “collective effort” is needed to reduce the “burden of disease and mortality of this latest wave”.

In an email to the sector, the Taoiseach’s department warned that it is essential that there is a “full understanding” by restaurant, pub and nightclub owners of how the virus transmits and what causes a “potential outbreak or super-spreader event”.

They were told that if the current “level of openness” is to continue, the hospitality industry must ensure compliance with Covid-19 guidelines is “considered best practice rather than minimum standard to protect communities”.

“Individual businesses need to proactively risk-assess their premises to calibrate mitigating measures in a bespoke way for their business,” the email added.

They were invited to a meeting at noon on November 9 when they will be shown the latest data on the spread of the virus and how it relates to the hospitality and night-time economy sector.

They will also be shown data compiled on compliance with existing Covid-19 measures by the industry. They will discuss how the “sectors can partner with the Government in promoting and amplifying public health messaging at this critical juncture”.

Meanwhile, one in five people now fear a return of some Covid-19 restrictions this month amid surging infections rising to “a very concerning” 3,903 yesterday.

The hidden worry among the public about fresh curbs to their freedom emerged in the latest ESRI tracker survey.

However, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said restrictions were “unlikely.”

Despite the public disquiet, the survey highlights how people generally feel safe and at low risk in most locations, with many seeing no difference between dining indoors or outdoors, although being in the open air is safer.

And there was little evidence of a change in their high level of social activity or increased efforts to reduce their risk, the findings revealed.

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Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the 3,903 infections reported yesterday was a “very concerning figure and a stark reminder that this virus is highly contagious”. He pointed however to “some good news”, with the number of people needing hospitalisation and critical care due to Covid-19 illness reduced.

There were 463 Covid-19 patients in hospital yesterday, an increase of five since Thursday. However, the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care fell to 76, a reduction of 14 overnight.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin warned the high case numbers were a signal to people to be very careful but he pointed out that the powerful protective impact of vaccines is also being seen in the lower numbers who are seriously ill.

Mr Varadkar said the situation was “fragile” but he said further restrictions this winter were unlikely and “we anticipate that because of the immunity from vaccines, and also infection-acquired immunity. We will reach a point over the next couple of weeks where infections will start falling.”

He added that “pandemics never end, they tend to fizzle out, but I would be confident we will get through the winter, and we will be in a much better place next spring and summer.” He appealed to people to work from home where possible.

The ESRI survey, carried out after nightclubs reopened, showed that, despite living through a pandemic since March last year, there is still confusion among some of the public about risk.

People perceive public transport to be as or more risky than other settings, including indoor dining in pubs and restaurants. This is despite the fact people generally are on a bus or train for a shorter time than they are on a night out.

Nearly four in 10 of those who went to the pub revealed their Covid pass was not checked.

People tend to judge meeting people familiar to them as less risky than even brief encounters with strangers.

Household visits continue to account for most mixing and the proportion of these visits happening outdoors continues to fall.

Workplaces account for a large share of people meeting up but a growing proportion of those back in the office report that they do so because they feel pressured to attend.

Measures to reduce risk from the virus, such as mask-wearing, continue to fall.

The majority of workers are satisfied with the mitigation measures in place, although one in seven feel that they do not go far enough.

Dr Holohan asked people socialising this weekend to be “mindful of your contacts in the days after” and especially consider anyone you may meet who may have a weakened immune system, leaving them vulnerable to Covid-19.

Meanwhile, the surge in demand for testing means some people will face delays before getting an appointment at a centre and they will have a longer wait for a result. Online appointments in several centres across the country were fully booked up yesterday.

The rush for tests in the Limerick area was so intense that HSE Mid West Community Healthcare, which operates test centres across the region, appealed to people not to turn up without an appointment.

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