The chair of the British Medical Association in Northern Ireland believes it is “only natural” that people will cross the border to avail of hospitality after the Irish Government delayed a return to some indoor activities.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin announced yesterday that indoor hospitality in Ireland will not reopen after originally planning to do so on Monday.
When it does reopen, only those who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed to avail of the services.
“The simple truth is that we are in a race between the variants and the vaccines and we want to do everything we can to ensure that the vaccine wins,” said Mr Martin.
In recent weeks, people have travelled across the border to take advantage of the indoor hospitality on offer in Northern Ireland, and British Medical Association chair Dr Tom Black, said it is the same with travellers coming from the rest of the United Kingdom.
“These things are all done within the law and it will, however, spread the infection but the general impression with the delta variant throughout Europe is that we will see an increase in delta variant transmission and delta infections,” stated Dr Black.
“We were certainly expecting the modelling to suggest that there will be a lot of infections towards the end of August and into September.
“I think what the Republic of Ireland is doing, in terms of their measures, is that they're going to open up at [our] stage in their vaccination programme - they’re probably four to six weeks behind Northern Ireland.
“They’re not in the position to open up at the same extent and that’s a sensible thing to do.”
Dr Black added that there has been plenty of movement between different European countries, but it is the United Kingdom that still has one of the highest infection rates.
“We also have the highest protection for our vulnerable and our elderly so we’re probably coping better with the delta variant than other countries at this time,” he said.
The chief executive of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland Padraig Cribben said yesterday’s announcement was a massive blow for the Irish hospitality industry and was “totally unexpected”.
Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster’s Evening Extra, he added that those travelling north of the border to avail of hospitality is “great” for pub and restaurant owners in Northern Ireland.
“We’re aware that this has been going on since indoor hospitality opened in the north and we wish them all well,” said Mr Cribben. “That’s the scenario.
“You could have a situation along the border where somebody is equally distant from a pub in the south and a pub in the north and we know where they're going to go, and that would be the right thing to do.
“The even bigger scenario is that from July 19, you'll be able to get a plane in Dublin and go to Spain, spend a week in Spain and mix with people from all over the world then come back and I can’t do that in my own local a half mile up the road.”
The Irish Government’s plans to only open indoor hospitality to those who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid was described as "discriminatory and "unenforceable" in the Dail.