By Conor Humphries and Padraic Halpin
DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ireland announced a new three-week delay on Tuesday to the full reopening of bars and nightclubs, and further restricted travel after a doubling of COVID-19 infections left the country in what the government described as a “precarious situation.”
Ireland has reported an average of 46 cases per day over the past seven days, up from an average of 19 the previous week.
But it still has the 11th lowest rate of new infections of 32 European countries monitored by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, with nine infections per 100,000 people reported over the past 14 days.
“We’re in a precarious situation in our battle with the virus,” Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told a news conference. “We have lost some ground but it is possible to reclaim it.”
Bars operating as restaurants have been allowed to open since the end of June, but those serving just alcohol must remain closed for at least another three weeks to Aug. 31, Prime Minister Micheál Martin told reporters.
“I wish that I was here to share better news but I’m not,” said Martin.
He said he could not guarantee bars would reopen this year, adding: “We’ve got to achieve a reasonable equilibrium.”
The government has tasked the finance and spending ministers to look at additional funding for sectors likely to be impacted for a significant period of time, such as bars, the arts and entertainment sectors and aviation, Martin said.
The Licensed Vintners Association, a bar lobby group, said the decision to delay bar openings would be met with “fury and despair across the entire sector.”
The government removed Malta, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Monaco and San Marino from its 15-country travel Green List, meaning people arriving from all but 10 countries must now self-isolate for two weeks. It also left in place a 50-person limit for indoor gatherings and a 200-person limit for outdoor events.
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin and Conor Humphries; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Timothy Heritage)