Covid-19 is “dictating” the Government’s decision on restrictions, the Taoiseach said as he defended the retention of Covid certs throughout the winter amid rising cases.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that with increasing case numbers in Ireland and abroad, “it’s very difficult to predict when we're actually going to return to the kind of normality we experienced before the pandemic".
"I always felt we had to get through this winter. We don't want to go back [to tougher restrictions]. I think the fact that we've 93pc [of adults] fully vaccinated..it gives us a lot of protection,” he said.
"There are different phases of the pandemic and we're now in a new phase with an almost fully vaccinated population, boosters and so on. This means that the kind of things you can do in that phase are different prior to what we can do in this phase,” Mr Martin told Newstalk Radio.
An Taoiseach also defended the move to introduce ticketing for all events featuring live music or DJs in venues, a move the Licensed Vintners’ Association has branded “completely unworkable” and a “disaster”.
“The virus is dictating this, not the Government. The Government doesn’t want to be putting restrictions on people but we have to respond to the virus as it manifests itself,” Mr Martin said.
This comes as cases hit a nine-month high on Friday with 2,466 new cases confirmed.
Mr Martin said he wasn’t involved in the detailed discussions around the new rules for nightclubs and late bars, but said his “understanding” is that there would have been “an alert” on the ticketing requirement to nightclubs and late bars.
Donall O’Keeffe, Chief Executive of the LVA, told Government representatives at a briefing on Friday that this was “completely unworkable” and a “disaster” for musicians and the night-time industry.
“It simply won’t be possible to put such a system in place, it contradicts the very nature of social activity in Ireland. Do they know anything about the late night economy?
“If the Government goes ahead with these requirements then ad hoc late night socialising will not be possible. It could also have a devastating impact on DJs and live performers as most pubs simply won’t put on such entertainment.
“The very fact that this bombshell was dropped on the trade at 6.30pm on the very evening they reopen after 585 days of closure shows how appalling the Government planning for our reopening has been.
"The Government process to reopen our sector has become Keystone Cops meets Father Ted stuff,” Mr O’Keeffe said.
Government decided to pause the expected removal of the use of Covid certs to gain entry to bars, restaurants and other events and this came after a “serious ratcheting up of alarm” last week.
“Last Wednesday week was when there was a serious ratcheting up of alarm due to the case numbers and we signalled that very clearly. Nphet wanted a few more days to see if this was a blip or a pattern,” Mr Martin added.
The Government then acted on the advice provided by Nphet and decided to pause some relaxations while proceeding with others, he said.