A NUMBER of new measures are to be introduced by the government in an effort to prevent a further rise in Covid-19 cases from Thursday, including the requirement of vaccine certificates for entry to theatres and cinemas and a return to working from home.
Perhaps the biggest change, however, will be the new midnight closing time for pubs and nightclubs, an announcement that the general manager of Cork’s largest late-night venue had been anticipating.
“I was expecting it. The numbers kept climbing and the ICU beds were filling but the glass can either be half empty or half full. We’re still open and that’s the most important thing,” said John Styles of Reardan’s Bar.
“For the majority of pubs that serve until 11:30 anyway it’s not too much of a blow but for nightclubs and late venues it is knocking two very busy hours off.”
The news comes just over three weeks after the nightlife sector fully reopened following a 19-month shutdown.
“We had just opened back up fully for the jazz festival and people were out and about and just ecstatic to be back socialising again,” Mr Styles said.
“The culture did kind of change over the past few months though. People came out earlier. Instead of going into town at 10pm, they were coming at 8pm and I think they will most definitely do the same thing again, especially the 20 to 30 age bracket.”
Mr Styles added that the biggest blow would be a return to table service in bars, which he said updates had been “vague” on.
“Unfortunately, we still don’t know whether it will return to table service, and if it goes back to that again it will be super challenging,” he said.
“People have a few drinks and they're in play mode. It’s hard. You can’t extract people from a venue for not queuing for the bar properly or chatting to their friends.”
Equally, some theatres in Cork had been expecting vaccination requirements to be extended to the events sector.
The Everyman Theatre has already been checking vaccination certificates, as well as customer IDs, at the door since September.
Artistic director Sophie Motley said that it’s a necessary but time-consuming process.
“The big problem is that it takes time, it means we need four people at the front door whereas before we had no one there, and we need people to queue one metre apart,” she said.
“We’re going to be emailing people to tell them to come early from now on, especially for busy shows. We’ve got a very good system and it works but it just takes time.
“It’s difficult too because it’s hard to be welcoming when the first interaction people are having with us is us looking for their ID.”
Customers will also be asked to keep their masks on during shows unless they are eating and drinking.
The theatre has yet to return to full capacity but will gradually be increasing audience numbers toward the end of this month as the busy pantomime season approaches.
“We’re tentatively planning that capacity might be reduced again so we have a lot of panto performances planned so we can move people to other performances if that happens,” Motley said.
“We’re encouraging people to book into January if they’re worried because it does get very busy around Christmas.”
Meanwhile, the Government has also advised anyone who has returned to the workplace to work from home unless it is “absolutely necessary” for them to attend work in person.
Anyone living with someone who tests positive for Covid-19 will also now need to isolate for five days.
The announcements were made by Taoiseach Micheál Martin this evening, where he said that the recent Covid-19 case numbers were "a cause for deep concern".
“The surge that we are now experiencing is a dramatic reminder of what this virus can do. We need to act now to deal with this surge," he said.
"Nobody wants to go back to a world of widespread restrictions. That is what these changes are about."
In other news, booster vaccines will now be available to anyone who has an underlying health condition or is aged 50 and up.
"It is only our collective effort that will keep our society and economy open," Mr Martin said. "That will sustain and maintain our progress, that will keep us healthy and safe".