Leo Varadkar says he can't see pubs reopening in Ireland before August
It's not looking good for an early reopening of pubs in Ireland.
Earlier this month, the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) and the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) published proposals that would potentially allow for the reopening of some pubs in Ireland six weeks earlier than scheduled.
The proposals included a number of major changes to the way pubs operate, including table service becoming a requirement, a maximum of six people allowed at any table, and bars becoming dispense-bars only, with no sitting, standing or drinking at the bar allowed.
The proposals were designed so that pubs that could facilitate the measures outlined in them could reopen by the end of June, or Phase 3 of the Government roadmap, when cafes and restaurants will be permitted to reopen provided they comply with social distancing and strict cleaning protocols.
After Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan expressed reservations about the ability of pubs to reopen early last week, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has also cast doubt on pubs being able to reopen earlier then expected, saying that it will most likely be the middle of August before they can operate again, as per Phase 5 of the government roadmap.
Speaking to Today FM on Wednesday morning, Varadkar said: "The key for us is if it's possible to open a business and maintain good hygiene and social distancing.
"The truth is that in a pub it is very difficult. Pubs had to close before they were told to close because they weren't able to maintain social distancing in a number of cases and the difficulty then for the publicans - and I really feel for them - is if they do maintain the two metre rule, they might be able to open - but would they be viable?
"It is something we're determined to work through with them, but as things stand, we won't see pubs, nightclubs, entertainment venues open until mid-August."
Varadkar also said that he expects the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme to be in place for the foreseeable future, and that it will last longer than the weekly Pandemic Unemployment Payment scheme.
You can listen to Varadkar's interview on Today FM in full here.