The Government will “work out” the remaining details for how venues such as nightclubs will reopen in the coming days, Taoiseach Micheal Martin has said.
Mr Martin was speaking hours after he announced an easing of Covid-19 restrictions that will see some sectors reopen, although some measures will stay in place until February 2022.
The Government had hoped to see the lifting of the vast majority of Covid-19 restrictions from October 22.
Instead, many will stay as senior politicians said the country will need to live with the virus for another winter.
One of the announcements that has generated the most attention and questions is the reopening of nightclubs.
Nightclubs will reopen for the first time since March last year but with strict measures in place, including Covid passes and the wearing of face masks.
In a country where I’ve gotten so used 2 so many of the rules regarding my industry making little sense & feeling wildly arbitrary, this one definitely takes it. You can stand and dance at a night club. But not at a gig. Please some1 for the love of god make that make sense 4 me https://t.co/P5wO0XoBm0
— James Vincent McMorrow (@jamesvmcmorrow) October 19, 2021
Musicians and members of the music industry on Tuesday asked how the sector can reopen with such restrictions.
Irish musician James Vincent McMorrow was among those questioning the logic of the Government announcement.
He tweeted: “In a country where I’ve gotten so used 2 so many of the rules regarding my industry making little sense & feeling wildly arbitrary, this one definitely takes it.”
He called some of comments made by politicians on nightclubs “bonkers”.
Mr Martin told RTE News on Tuesday that some details still needed to be worked out ahead of Friday.
“We got relatively late notice in relation in terms of this. We weren’t anticipating this,” he said. “Work with us over the next couple of days.
As of 8am today, 473 COVID-19 patients are hospitalised, of which 74 are in ICU.
— Department of Health (@roinnslainte) October 19, 2021
“We will work this out, just like we worked out indoor hospitality over the summer.
“We do accept there are needs for clarity, but please work with the Department for Tourism and we will work it out,” he asked members of the industry.
He said that the Government would be working with the live music sector, which had been promoting gigs in recent weeks on the assumption that the vast majority of restrictions would be eased from October 22.
He said that anomalies were to be expected in Covid-19 regulations.
“There will be, and there has been since the beginning, different manifestations of how rules are applied in different settings.”
Earlier, Mr Martin had insisted that nightclubs would be able to fully return, with appropriate safeguards in place.
Following public health advice, Government has agreed that the remaining aspects of the hospitality, entertainment and night-time economy sector can reopen only with the full range of protective measures in place. All details here: https://t.co/0pLVgtIQUx pic.twitter.com/iyogPhSaJD
— MerrionStreet.ie (@merrionstreet) October 19, 2021
“What traditionally happens in a nightclub will continue to happen in the nightclub,” Mr Martin told reporters.
“I think the key overall point that Nphet (National Public Health Emergency Team) is making and that we agree with, is that protective measures have to involve masks, physical distancing, ventilation and mitigation measures,” Mr Martin said.
“It’s the appropriate use of all of these is how Nphet terms it.
“There are practicalities involved in different sectors and those have to be worked on as we have done in the past.
“The overall point here is collective behaviour. We all need to behave sensibly in terms of our engagements and our activities.”
Health experts said that the remaining sectors can open, but only with protective measures.
— MerrionStreet.ie (@merrionstreet) October 19, 2021
Normal operating hours for bars and restaurants will also resume from Friday.
“This is a different approach and with vaccination at over 92%, we are at a certain stage, but the issue now is how we collectively protect ourselves, and our personal behaviours,” Mr Martin said.
“They (Nphet) make the point that you could pause for three weeks, but they’re not clear that pausing would dramatically affect the trajectory of the disease.”
He added: “There are going to be anomalies, it’s not one clear line across every sector.
“There have to be practical solutions. That will be challenging in some sectors.”
The Social Democrats’ co-leader, Catherine Murphy, said: “The announcement today on the lifting of the restrictions was yet another startling display of confusion, incoherence and chaos.
“With just three days to go before many businesses, which have been closed for nearly two years, are due to open, the rules are being rewritten.
“We all accept that the rates of Covid transmission can surge very quickly and can be unpredictable.
“Businesses have been given absolutely no guidance on the manner in which they can improve ventilation and make their businesses safer.
“Nightclubs and music venues are going to get advice on how they can open their business at the last possible moment.
“We’re told, for example, you can dance at nightclubs but you can’t go to the bar for a drink, it’s very confusing – you could probably dance to the bar.”