'It will be a huge help': Cork businesses welcome proposed changes to close contact rules 

Publicans in Cork are also calling for the Government to review the 8pm closing time for hospitality. 
'It will be a huge help': Cork businesses welcome proposed changes to close contact rules 

Yesterday, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said there are grounds for “cautious optimism” that restrictions, such as the 8pm curfew on hospitality, could be eased in February.

Proposed changes to the rules around isolation periods for close contacts have been welcomed by businesses in Cork, with the Cork Chamber saying that steps taken to alleviate the pressure on businesses would be beneficial.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly is to bring a memo to Government today for discussion which would consider a number of changes to current rules, following public health advice.

Under the proposals, close contacts of Covid cases would no longer have to restrict their movements for five days if they have received the booster jab and are asymptomatic.

Currently, a close contact of a Covid case must restrict their movements, regardless of their vaccination status, and conduct antigen tests every two days.

Significant staffing challenges 

Cork Chamber spokesperson Thomas McHugh said that there are significant staffing challenges across many sectors, and “any clearly defined steps that can be taken, in line with guidelines, to alleviate this pressure would be beneficial.”

VFI Cork City chairperson Michael O’Donovan said it would be a “huge help” to hospitality and all businesses.

“It’s been a major impediment in terms of staffing issues these past three weeks,” he said. “It is really welcome and will help businesses going forward.”

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the Cabinet will also discuss plans to reduce the isolation period for those who test positive for Covid-19 to seven days, including those who have not received a booster.

“We really want to try and ease the burden on people,” he said. “We’re very, very aware of how difficult it is for people, for their employers, and for their communities with so many people having been asked to restrict their movements if they’re in close contact.

“If you have boosted immunity, you’re asked to restrict your movements for five days. That requirement would go completely — so no restricted movements.

“Now, the recommendation is still obviously that there is regular antigen testing for several days, and during that period, people wear the higher-grade masks.”

Mr Donnelly added: “We’ve now administered nearly two and a half million boosters, and then there’s another many hundreds of thousands every week who are testing positive for Covid.”

The Government is also to discuss a proposal that for the group who are currently asked to take an antigen test if they have symptoms of the virus, that they would not need a confirmatory PCR test if they have a positive result on an antigen test.

Easing of 8pm curfew 

Yesterday, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said there are grounds for “cautious optimism” that restrictions, such as the 8pm curfew on hospitality, could be eased in February.

Colm O’Connor, who runs Costigan’s Bar on Washington St, said he thought the restrictions on closing times could be relaxed slowly.

“People have been living with Covid for almost two years and are well aware of the dos and don’ts when dealing with it,” he said.

“Regarding closing times, going until 9pm next week would be a great help, and 10pm the week after.

“Let us reopen slowly and in a controlled manner. I can’t see the benefit in keeping us at 8pm for another 2-3 weeks and then back to 11.30pm.

“Hospitality is on its knees, and an hour would make a massive difference to trade, including being able to show matches etc, which we have a heavy charge for.”

Mr O’Donovan also said the 8pm closing time should be looked at.

“I know it is not on the agenda for Wednesday, but we would like to see it revisited,” he said. “It has severely impacted on hospitality trade. Prior to Christmas and new year, people were out and about; since new year it has been really difficult. The city is eerie after 8pm.”

Shelbourne Bar publican Philip Gillivan agreed with his colleagues.

“I believe we should be able to serve outside as per normal trading hours,” he said. We did it last year. Cork City Council and the individual pubs/cafes and restaurants have spent a lot of money creating spaces for customers outside.”

Rise in cases and close contacts 

In the last week of December, the total number of close contacts was 229,113 — an increase of 123% compared to the previous week.

The average number of cases managed per day increased from 9,200 to 18,367, an increase of 99% over the same period.

Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan told Mr Donnelly that up to half a million people in Ireland were likely to have contracted Covid-19 in the past week.

In a letter, Dr Holohan said the five-day rolling average of daily cases is 19,259 today, a 349% rise from the figure reported on December 16.

Last night, the Health Protection Surveillance Centre reported 19,290 new confirmed cases of Covid-19. As of 8am yesterday, 1,062 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, of whom 92 were in intensive care units.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more