By Keith Bourke
The re-opening of society continues with travel restrictions easing at Ireland West Airport Knock and the return of indoor hospitality imminent.
From yesterday, travel restrictions eased as Ireland joins the EU Digital Covid Certificate that has been in place in other EU countries since July 1. The cert is not required for travelling abroad but it aims to make it easier to travel safely within Europe Those travelling from the UK and other countries will not have to quarantine if they can prove they are fully vaccinated or recovered from Covid.
Joe Gilmore, Managing Director of Ireland West Airport Knock, said yesterday was an exciting day at the airport but a long road to economic recovery lies ahead.
“There is a bit of a buzz around the place but realistically it will take several weeks for travel to resume at any reasonable level. This week we are operating at around 20% of what would be our normal schedule. It’s going to take a while to build back up to even 50% of our schedule. This week we have around 17 flights operating, we would normally have around 100 flights a week. Those flights are about half full this week. It’s going to be a slow return but we are very happy that restrictions have been eased,” said Mr Gilmore.
A final decision on the reopening of indoor service in bars and restaurants next week is expected to be taken by Cabinet tomorrow (Wednesday).
The recent good weather has given businesses with outdoor dining space an opportunity to trade successfully but many other bars and restaurants remain closed.
Kevin Stirzaker runs Dining Room in Castlebar with his wife Shirley. Their doors will be closed until indoor hospitality returns.
“The Government supports have been there to help keep us afloat and the restaurant ticking over but obviously the home would be struggling a lot more. We have our fingers crossed that everything goes well with the announcement. I have been just trying to bury my head in the sand out in Enniscrone over the last few weeks! The uncertainty has been the real killer,” said Kevin.
The policing of the digital Covid cert to allow fully vaccinated people to drink and dine outdoors remains a ‘real sticking point’ within the industry, admits Kevin. He said the hospitality sector has been ‘left hanging’ before when it comes to last-minute guidelines.
“Anybody who as a respect for the industry will try their absolute hardest to implement all the government guidelines. I know we will and I know most of the places around Castlebar and Mayo will but I think the bigger cities will struggle to monitor it,” said the chef and restaurant owner.
Towns in Mayo have tried to make conditions more favourable for outdoor dining in recent weeks. The latest initiative has seen Tucker Street in Castlebar closed to traffic in the evening with the street pedestrianised and given over as an outdoor dining space. The move, aided by the sunshine, has been a major success.
“It’s been amazing and the weather really adds to it,” said Castlebar councillor Ger Deere, who brought the idea to Mayo County Council. “It has really taken off, the businesses bought into it and there has been a great response from the public,” he added.