The questions is; How long will it take hospitality to recover?
On the January 21 Taoiseach Micheál Martin delivered some long-awaited news for some – most Covid-19 restrictions were to be lifted from 6AM the following morning.
A phased return to working in person was announced. The limits on household visitors and at weddings, events, and sports matches were lifted as well as the 8pm closing time for restaurants and pubs.
Nightclubs have reopened and the Covid certificate is no longer needed for entry into restaurants or clubs but stays in place for international travel.
Mask wearing is expected to be mandatory until the end of next month and those who test positive for or have symptoms of Covid-19 are still expected to self-isolate.
The biggest easing of restrictions in almost two years is credited to increased immunity after the Omicron wave, the lesser severity of the new variant and to the country’s high booster vaccine uptake with 52.8% of people boosted and around 77% of the population being fully vaccinated according to Our World in Data.
While the Taoiseach called the announcement a “good day” for the country, he also issued a reminder that “the pandemic is not over.”
In the eyes of some NUI Galway students restrictions easing is viewed as a positive step forward.
Third-year student Katie McHugh felt that because of many people being vaccinated and with antigen tests to use before socialising or visiting vulnerable people that restrictions were due to ease.
“It will help with people’s mental health and the hospitality sector can recover,” she added.
Katie also was delighted at the easing the requirement of Covid certs, as she found them to be “quite discriminatory”.
“I have had all 3 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, but I came to that choice myself and weighed the risks against the benefits,” she further explained.
“I feel like everyone should have the right to choose what they do with their own bodies. With the certs removed, it’s their choice [to get vaccinated].”
Various restaurants and cafés around Galway that are popular with students are also welcoming the ease in restrictions.
Ieva Gedrovica is the manager of the Secret Garden café on Sea Road. She views the news as “very good.”
“We were always busy, even during the restrictions times, but now it seems to be even better, and it is fantastic to see people talking to each other again, being freer and more relaxed,” added Gedrovica.
“It is a nice feeling, hard to believe we actually made it!”
Papa Rich Street Food, who own several restaurants across Galway City and County also welcomed the news.
“There’s a great buzz in Galway City with the easing of restrictions,” added Rebecca Tan, Owner of the Woodquay restaurant.
“We’re glad to see customers enjoying themselves.”
However, sentiments from the NUI Galway student body were not entirely in favour of restrictions lifting.
“I think that people do need the social interaction with their peers, but I am weary about hospitality not taking Covid certs for entry,” explained Connor Boyle-Ferry.
“I felt a lot more comfortable going out knowing that everyone around me was vaccinated.”
One anonymous student had strong negative emotions to restrictions lifting and felt overall the pandemic “clearly and desperately exposed how fragile our society and economy” is in Ireland.
“We won’t think hard about how that however good our response to Covid was by comparison, the country’s public health care is being pushed to the breaking point…I have a nightmare that because of the nature of Covid, restrictions being lifted will mean that one case will slip through any checks…and that’s all it will take,” they continued.
“We’re through with monstrous death rates and cases and maybe we are, but we’re not through the collective trauma of lockdown.
“I imagine a lot of authorities, not just NUI Galway, are going to pretend we aren’t affected,” the student concluded.