The tourism and hospitality sector supports around 270,000 jobs across the State. Some 68% of those jobs are outside of Dublin and in many parts of the country it is the principal source of economic activity. The sector supports hundreds of thousands of workers, families and communities. It has been one of the hardest hit sectors as a result of Covid-19 and the facts bear that out. In recent months, approximately 92% of all workers in the accommodation and food sector have received the pandemic unemployment payment or have been on the temporary wage subsidy scheme. I appreciate that some of these workers have been able to return to work in recent weeks, and that is to be welcomed, but many more have not.
Many publicans and workers in the pub trade are very disappointed with last night's announcement that the planned reopening on Monday will not now be able to proceed. I appreciate that the decision has not been taken lightly. I know that public health officials are concerned about increased transmission and possible transmission of Covid-19 at this time. We must all be guided by the public health advice in the decisions that we take. However, I think we need to acknowledge that this virus is going to be with us for some time. It is here for the medium term if not the long term and we need to plan accordingly. Has any consideration been given by NPHET to varying the approach to reopening in particular regions? This is an important question. Is consideration being given to allowing pubs to reopen, like restaurants are open now, with all of the restrictions that are in place in terms of table service, social distancing and time limits but without the serving of food? The Minister for Health says there is no concern about restaurants, so could pubs do the same but without food? It strikes me that this could be a way forward in the weeks ahead.
In addition, we need to look seriously at a specific stimulus plan for the tourism and hospitality sector. Such a plan is needed. The Tánaiste may be aware that Sinn Féin recently published a proposal amounting to a stimulus of €860 million to provide every adult in the State with a voucher worth €200 and every child with a voucher worth €100 to be spent in businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector. It would provide a big boost to counties and regions heavily dependent on tourism and hospitality as well as supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs. This plan would also give workers and families a welcome option for a break away or days out after what has been an extraordinarily difficult period. Similar stimulus plans have been introduced around the world. Italy has a similar plan to encourage people to holiday at home. Vienna has given vouchers to residents for restaurants in the city. The US is distributing billions of dollars in stimulus cheques directly to residents. This is a worthy investment in terms of jobs in businesses and in communities. Without that intervention now thousands of jobs could be lost permanently, costing the State considerably more in the long run. The Government is due to publish its July stimulus plan in the coming days. Will this scheme or a similar one be considered as part of the package of measures that will be announced?