Health officials recommend 5pm closure time for pubs and restaurants

Health officials recommend 5pm closure time for pubs and restaurants

THE NATIONAL Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has recommended to government that pubs and restaurants close at 5pm from next week.

They also called for all indoor sporting and cultural events to take place before 5pm and be capped at 50% capacity.

Outdoor events would be capped at 50% or 5,000 people under the proposals.

NPHET met on Thursday afternoon and finalised its recommendations to government, which are aimed at reducing socialising before and after the festive period, particularly as concerns grow over the spread of the Omicron variant.

People will be asked to limit their contacts in the lead up to Christmas, especially if intergenerational mixing will take place.

The Vintners' Federation of Ireland CEO Padraig Cribben told Newstalk the news is devastating for Irish hospitality.

"This is an absolute bombshell that nobody had anticipated," he said.

"In essence, it is the equivalent of full closure for most businesses.

“95% of the business is done post-5pm in most outlets. There are many outlets around the country that don’t open until late afternoon.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin is expected to return from a European Union summit in Brussels on Friday afternoon and a Cabinet meeting is expected soon after.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said this week the country was facing "an urgent situation" with Omicron "spreading rapidly."

The variant has led to the UK seeing its highest ever increase in positive infections since the pandemic began, with 88,000 being recorded on Thursday alone.