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surge fears Reopening of restaurants and gastropubs in doubt as Nphet raises concerns with Government plans

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Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer.

Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer.

Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer.

The reopening of restaurants and gastropubs has been cast in doubt after the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) raised concerns with Government plans to reopen the hospitality industry.

In a letter to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, Nphet has made recommendations which are understood to clash with plans to allow restaurants and pubs that serve food to open before Christmas.

The Government was planning to allow restaurants and pubs with kitchens reopen in the second phase of exiting lockdown in December.

However, several senior Government sources have said the group led by Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan has raised serious concerns over allowing the hospitality industry reopen over fears it will lead to a spike in new Covid-19 cases.

One source pointed to Germany where Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday decided to extend the ban on restaurants and pubs opening until the New Year.

“Hospitality was always going to be a concern of Nphet’s,” the source added. Another source confirmed central to the Nphet’s concerns was the plan to reopen hospitality industry.

Ongoing talks within Government this week saw ministers planning to reopen restaurants and gastropubs in the second week of December.

Pubs would be required to have a kitchen and chef on site to provide meals. The aim of the new regulations was to clamp down on pubs serving sandwiches and oven pizzas to get around the €9 substantial meal rule for serving alcohol.

Pubs have also been allowing customers order food from other local businesses to get around the rules.

Ministers did not expect to allow wet pubs reopen before Christmas. Wet pubs only reopened outside Dublin earlier this year for a brief period before the second lockdown.

The Cabinet Committee on Covid-19 is due to meet this afternoon to discuss Nphet’s advice and a range of data compiled on behalf of the Department of the Taoiseach by auditors EY.

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The Covid-19 Oversight Group led by the Department of the Taoiseach secretary general Martin Fraser is also due to meet.

A final decision on reopening the country will be made by Cabinet tomorrow afternoon. The meeting is scheduled for 1pm and the Taoiseach Micheál Martin is expected to address the nation on Friday evening.

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