DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ireland has delayed the planned opening of bars and nightclubs by three weeks to Aug. 10 due to concerns about a rise in COVID-19 infections among younger people, Prime Minister Micheal Martin announced on Wednesday.
The country had been due to enter the fourth and final phase of restrictions on July 20, which would have allowed the opening of all bars and nightclubs and indoor gatherings of up to 100 people. But this will now happen on Aug. 10, Martin told journalists.
The government will also order the wearing of face masks by customers in all shops and will retain its advice against non-essential foreign travel, he added.
Ireland remains in a “good position” in relation to COVID-19, but the number of cases over the past 14 days has increased to 3.9 per 100,000 from a low of 2.5 per 100,000, Chief Medical Officer Ronan Glynn told the same press briefing.
Ireland’s COVID-19 reproduction number, which measures the number of people who become infected from each positive case, has increased to the highest level in several weeks to between 1.2 and 1.8, Glynn said.
The head of bar lobby group the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland said the decision to delay the opening of bars where food is not served was a “hammer blow” to the industry and called for cash grants to keep businesses from closing.
“What this decision is doing is taking the consumption of (alcohol) out of the controlled environment of the pub into the uncontrolled environment of house parties and shebeens,” Padraig Cribben told RTE television, using the Irish word for an illegal bar.
Bars in Ireland that serve food have been allowed to open since the end of June with strict social distancing measures in place.
(Reporting by Conor Humphries; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Andrew Cawthorne)