BILL WATCH 68/2021
[9th October 2021]
Public Health Lock-down Order : Further Relaxation of Lock-down
Following an announcement by the Cabinet on Tuesday that the lock-down would be extended for another two weeks, but that bars and nightclubs would be allowed to open, the government published a statutory instrument – the Public Health (COVID-19 Prevention, Containment and Treatment) (National Lockdown) (No. 2) (Amendment) Order, 2021 (No. 36) (SI 241/2012) – giving legal effect to the announcement. The new SI can be accessed on the Veritas website [link], and so can a consolidated version of the Lock-down Order incorporating the latest amendments [link].
Opening Hours for Businesses
Subject to what we shall say below, businesses generally are now permitted to open daily between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. (previously they were allowed to open between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.).
The new opening hours apply to what the Lock-down Order calls “licensed premises”, i.e. premises licensed under the Liquor Act, so bottle stores, bars and nightclubs are at last allowed to open – though whether nightclubs will find it worthwhile to open at all if they have to close at 8 p.m. remains to be seen. Customers visiting licensed premises must be fully vaccinated, however, which means they must vaccination certificates showing they have had two doses of a recognised vaccine. If a customer who has not produced a vaccination certificate is allowed into licensed premises the person in charge of the premises will be liable to imprisonment for up to a year. So too will the customer.
What exactly are licensed premises?
As we have said, “licensed premises” are defined as any premises licensed under the Liquor Act, so the term covers not just bottle stores, bars and nightclubs but extends to liquor wholesalers and supermarkets that sell liquor. Hence owners and staff of liquor outlets will have to prove they are fully vaccinated when they buy liquor from wholesalers, and so will customers who buy their liquor from supermarkets.
Application of the new opening hours
Although we have said that businesses are permitted to open between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., and although this echoes the Lock-down Order, it is not entirely true. The Order fixes maximum opening hours for the purpose of combating COVID-19 but does not purport to give businesses permission to stay open beyond their ordinary opening hours, i.e. beyond the hours they are permitted to open under any other law. The Liquor Act, for example, limits the hours that licensed premises outlets may remain open and hours can also be limited under the Shop Licences Act. These limits must continue to be observed.
People will be able to engage in sporting activities, whether high-risk, medium-risk or low-risk, from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. daily [previously they could only start at 8 a.m.]. Participants will have to be fully vaccinated, which means they will have to produce certificates showing they have received two doses of a recognised vaccine.
Extension of the Lock-down
In Tuesday’s post Cabinet briefing it was announced that the level 2 lock-down had been extended for a further two weeks. There is nothing to that effect in SI 241 of 2021 but there did not have to be, because the Lock-down Order extends indefinitely and remains in force until it is revoked. What the Cabinet announcement means is that the lock-down remains in force for the time being and will be reconsidered in two weeks’ time.