Infectious disease specialist Dr Sam McConkey said there should be no issue with non-essential retail reopening ahead of Christmas as it can be done in a socially distanced way.
s the aviation, hospitality and retail sectors plead with the government to allow their businesses reopen, Dr McConkey explained that the three should not be painted with the same brush and are all very different.
He added that it’s possible for non-essential retail outlets to reopen while hospitality is much trickier.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland, the infectious disease specialist said: “I think there are quite different scenarios for those three sectors that you have mentioned.
“The aviation sector is in deep trouble regardless of what happens. With retail we have seen in Ireland how the supermarkets back in March and April fed us really well and really safely, so it is possible to do retail in a socially distanced way.
“I think as in Level 3 you can open non-essential retail, so the toy shops could essentially open up if people are wearing masks, staying two metres away from each other, safe queuing.
“So I say that it’s possible to open retail for a period in a safe and effective way. The people working there would also need safe places to drink their coffee and restrooms that aren’t crowded so there aren’t staff outbreaks.
“The supermarkets and butchers in Ireland have already done that really well for the last nine months.”
Concerning hospitality, Dr McConkey admitted that it’s “a real challenge”.
“Once we all eat and drink we tend to be less socially distanced. The Level 3 restrictions allow people to do takeaways and eat outside up to 15 people,” he said.
“Indoor dining and pubs are just risky and that’s the nature of this virus.
“So until we get the levels of community transmission down really low as we did in June then it’s hard to see indoor dining in the busy way that we all enjoyed last year coming back until we get it down further.
“There’s going to be a bit of work in January to get it down further.”
The infectious disease specialist said he is optimistic that the number of cases in the country will improve over the next week or two.
“So, the data we see from last week will really reflect our behaviour from about two weeks earlier,” he said.
“There’s some suggestion that over Halloween there was essentially some more socialising and partying than we had before.
“So, the optimist in me hopes that things will improve next week and the week after. The numbers may hopefully go down to half, you know 100 to 200 cases per day.”