Tánaiste and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar continues its presumably deliberate policy of flagging what lies before its parliamentary party, which then licks to make sure things are reported to the public. In his last email to his party’s TDs, he admits there won’t be an economic reopening until May, with the exception of retail click-and-collect services.
This was not entirely unexpected. However, the timeline he set shows how close the wind could be to reopening for the hospitality sector, with little room for setbacks along the way. If virus infection rates rise even moderately in the coming months, there is a real risk that the industry’s only salvation for the coming season, summer stays, will be damaged.
If there isn’t an economic reopening by May, chances are that most of that month will be available for unleashing the non-essential retail sector and watching its impact. It could be June before the hospitality sector reopens, and even that will be staggered.
The length of stay must be coordinated with the school holidays. Secondary school students are free in early June. Elementary school students will be free by the end of the month. The endurance test is at the beginning of July. If the hospitality sector is not fully open by then and there are no travel restrictions between counties, the industry is facing an utter disaster.
The reduction in the number of cases has slowed in the last 10 days and is now almost on a plateau of more than 600 per day – too high to open anything again. Schools are going back. After that, retail will be reopened. Then the travel restrictions between the counties will be lifted. A lot can go wrong before it comes to hospitality.
On the positive side, the introduction of the vaccine should help limit infection rates by then. Better weather and longer days should keep us outdoors too. Re-opening the tourism sector in time for the staycation market could be a short-term proposition.
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