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Covid inspectors plan bank holiday blitz on pubs not checking virus passports – as industry says it is ‘vital’ bar service resumes

Dr Tony Holohan’s Covid cert was not checked at Dublin Airport when arriving from abroad last week

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Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan. Photo: Colin Keegan

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan. Photo: Colin Keegan

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan. Photo: Colin Keegan

Health inspectors will blitz pubs and restaurants over the October bank holiday weekend, as part of fresh drive to ramp up compliance with Covid-19 rules across the hospitality sector.

Amid mounting concerns over a lack of compliance in some sections of the industry, a meeting of the Government’s Regulatory Forum was held yesterday afternoon.

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The high-level group, which includes gardaí, the HSE and senior Government officials, agreed there is a need for a major clampdown on businesses who fail to ask customers for their Digital Covid Certificates and identification before entry.

It comes as new figures show the HSE carried out 5,621 checks of businesses providing indoor hospitality since July.

Just under 70pc (3,864) of businesses were found to be fully compliant with Covid-19 measures, while 2pc (136) were non-compliant. The remaining 28pc (1593) were found to require additional compliance measures.

This weekend, HSE environmental health officers and Health and Safety Authority (HSA) inspectors will be calling into pubs and restaurants to ensure better compliance.

Gardaí will also increase their presence on streets in an attempt to address anti-social behaviour linked to the easing of restrictions on bars and nightclubs.

They will also be checking to see if businesses are adhering to licensing laws on opening hours, which this weekend return to normal for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

A government spokesperson said the Regulatory Forum agreed to “double down on compliance activity” to ensure public health measures are being adhered to in the restaurants, pub and cafes that have reopened in recent months.

He said there is also a need to ensure businesses which will soon open, such as nightclubs, follow the same rules.

“This is one plank to work alongside communications and sectoral guidelines,” he said. “The role of compliance here is more about support of sectors, and encouraging rather than enforcement.”

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A senior Government source said it will be “all hands on deck” over the weekend, as concerns continue over the continued rise of new cases of Covid.

Yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin signalled the renewed focus on enforcing compliance with the requirement to produce a Digital Covid Certificate to enter a restaurant, pub or cafe.

Mr Martin said he will take a personal interest in ensuring certs and identification are being checked across the hospitality sector before customers are permitted to eat or drink inside.

“I’ll be looking for more regular compliance reports in respect of adherence to the presentation of Digital Covid Certs and other protective measures. I have asked my secretary general to compile that report,” he said.

Meanwhile, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said customers should complain if pubs and restaurants don’t enforce Covid passes properly

Mr Holohan has said he is in favour of better enforcement of Covid passes at pubs and restaurants, and that if owners want to “attract and maintain” loyal customers, they should enforce the passes properly.

“Maybe it isn’t the easiest thing for people – particularly in this country – to start to complain to a restaurant when they go in,” he said.

“But the ideal thing would be to leave and to not go back to that environment.”

Dr Holohan said if owners want to build “loyal customers”, they should have protective measures in place – including the use of hand sanitiser.

“If bars and restaurants understand that, in order to attract and maintain loyal customers, they must offer an environment which is safe,” added Dr Holohan.

He also revealed that his own Covid certificate was not checked when arriving into Dublin Airport from abroad last week.

Speaking this morning ahead of the hospitality guidelines being published by Fáilte Ireland, the head of Irish Vintners Association (IVA) said it would be discriminatory if the rules are not the same all for pubs, late bars and nightclubs.

Donal O’Keeffe was speaking ahead of the planned easing of Covid-19 restrictions tomorrow and said industry heads have yet to receive clear guidelines from Government officials.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme, Mr O’Keeffe said industry representatives had constructive meetings with Government officials yesterday and that guidelines for the operation of pubs, later bars and nightclubs will be published this evening.

However, he said the ongoing uncertainty is causing chaos for business owners as they try to plan for tomorrow evening.

“We’ve had constructive engagement, but we don’t have clarity now on the Government decision and on the guidelines. Later bars and nightclubs are due to open tomorrow – some are indeed planning to open at one minute past midnight tonight going into tomorrow. After 585 days of closure and it is a ridiculous situation, a chaotic situation that we don’t have guidelines for their operation after such an extended closure,” he added.

Mr O’Keeffe said he understands that multiple table bookings will be permitted and that the ideal of a click and collect service for drinks was also discussed.

He confirmed that the operation of late bars and nightclubs is where most of the uncertainty remains and said it is vital that bar counter service is permitted to resume.

He described the bar counter as the “core” of the pub offering and the key element of what makes pubs different from other hospitality services.

Mr O’Keeffe said industry representatives are committed that different rules cannot apply for pubs, late bars and nightclubs.

“Certainly, our position is that it should not be countenanced. The would be intolerable, unfair and discriminatory between the businesses involved. We believe that the operation of a bar, the operation of a business should be subject to the same guidelines irrespective of the setting. So, there should be no difference in our view between the traditional bar, late bar or nightclub,” he said.

Mr O’Keeffe said that more effort is needed to enforce public health guidelines after it emerged this week that up to one in three licenced premises were found not to be checking customers’ Covid certs.

He added that it is still unclear if the new Government guidelines for the industry will have “the force of law”.

“It would be our clear position that all hospitality businesses right across the sector must follow the public health guidelines,” he added.


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