"Alcohol can make people less aware of social distancing," NPHET tells government
In a letter written to the Irish government, NPHET also warned that risks are "further heightened" in nightclubs.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) warned the government that alcohol makes people less aware of social distancing, in a letter in relation to the the decision not to proceed with Phase 4 of reopening society and business in the country.
On Tuesday evening, the government announced the decision not to move ahead to Phase 4 next Monday (10 August), as had originally been planned, meaning that pubs that can't serve a substantial meal and nightclubs will remain closed for at least another three weeks.
The advice from NPHET for pubs and nightclubs cited a number of reasons, including a number of examples of outbreaks in Covid-19 in settings in bars and nightclubs internationally in recent weeks.
"In light of the current status of the Covid-19 disease in Ireland in recent weeks, the significant risk of infection spread associated with social gatherings, the evidence of outbreaks associated with pubs and bars in other countries and the current public health risk, while also being cognisant of broader social/wellbeing considerations, it is recommended that pubs, bars and hotel bars stay closed," the letter, signed by Acting Chief Medical Officer Ronan Glynn read.
“Pubs/bars pose a particular risk to the spread of Covid-19 as alcohol can make people less aware of social distancing and hygiene/respiratory behaviours, loud atmospheres can increase particles emitted and many pubs/bars can be small spaces with poor ventilation,” the letter added.
NPHET acknowledged that pubs can be a crucial part of any community, and that they provide an important social connection for many people, but recommended that they remain closed until 31 August and that the issue should be reviewed before that date.
The full letter can be read here.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin spoke of the government's decision on Tuesday night, saying: "I wish I was in a position to share better news today - but I am not.
"International experience shows that pubs and nightclubs lead to increased transmission - that would be the very worst thing to happen to this country."
Following NPHET advice that restaurants and bars serving substantial meals should close by 10.30pm, as outlined in the letter to government, Martin also announced that affected premises will have to close by 11pm until further notice.