DRINKERS in Ireland will be unable to visit pubs in large groups once they all reopen, according to a leading health expert.
Professor Philip Nolan, chair of National Public Health Emergency Team's Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, warned that restrictions on social gatherings are going to be of paramount importance moving forward.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Prof. Nolan said: "So, if and when pubs reopen, we are going to have to go to the pub in small groups, and each of our small groups is going to have to remain separate.
"Sadly, if we're going to be able to go to school and go to work and carry the risks of viral transmission that those things carry, we really are going to have to reserve our contacts for those settings and meet in small groups.
"I think those group restrictions will be with us for some considerable time."
He added that these restrictions are "the way we're going to need to behave coming into the winter".
Prof. Nolan was asked if regulations could be eased in counties where Covid-19 case levels are low, but he stressed that a "national approach" to the restrictions was a more sensible idea.
Ireland is now the only country in Europe that hasn't reopening all of its pubs.
Those that can offer customers substantial meals of €9 or more have been open since the end of June, but all 'wet pubs' across the country have remained shut since mid-March, in a crushing blow to the industry.
Earlier this week, Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said that once schools have successfully reopened and there's little sign of further spread of infection, the government will turn its attention to the reopening of pubs.
There's no indication yet as to the maximum size of these 'small groups', though it appears gathering in large groups in pubs will be, for the time being, a thing of the past.