Irish restaurant turns heat on government over quarantining as US tourists spark COVID-19 fears

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By Euronews  with AFP
Shania Dod, right, collects a sample at a United Memorial Medical Center COVID-19 testing site Wednesday, July 8, 2020, in Houston.
Shania Dod, right, collects a sample at a United Memorial Medical Center COVID-19 testing site Wednesday, July 8, 2020, in Houston.   -  Copyright  AP Photos

A restaurateur in Ireland has called on the government to do more on COVID-19 quarantine measures after several businesses reported concerns over US tourists. 

JP McMahon, owner of Cava Bodega in Galway, said his staff had been left "very uncomfortable" after a group from Texas dined at the restaurant on Saturday. 

While the European Union has banned US citizens from entering the bloc, Ireland allows them on the proviso they self-isolate for two weeks.

But McMahon said there was no way of knowing if the group his Spanish restaurant received on Saturday had just arrived into the country. 

Texas' largest city, Houston, has recorded 1,600 new cases in just 24 hours and its mayor, Sylvester Turner, has asked the state governor to "shut everything" for two weeks in order to eradicate the virus.

The US is the world's worst-hit country in the COVID-19 pandemic, although it is below many European countries in terms of deaths per one million of population

"Last night a group of people from Texas dined at Cava Bodega," wrote McMahon. "We have no way of knowing if they just arrived and should be self-quarantining. Staff very uncomfortable. We need a decision on this particularly if people are coming from places with high cases."

"We will ask all future international bookings for entry date into the country until government have their list of countries you don't have to quarantine from," he added. 

McMahon's wife, Drigin Gaffey, told Euronews: "In Galway, we are very reliant on American tourism and the last thing we want is to alienate our very good friends the Americans - that is definitely not the message".

But, she added, the restaurant has to "protect our staff and our customers as much as we can".

"Ideally we would like the government to take more charge" of quarantine measures and not "leave this to businesses", she said.

Ireland's Department of Health told Euronews it was examining "a range of options for strengthening existing measures in relation to overseas travel".

The Kings Head, also in Galway, said that it had to refuse entry to a group of Americans who admitted having just arrived in the country.

"We would never want to turn away anybody but we had to in order to protect ourselves", a member of staff told Euronews.

A hotel near Galway, Gregans Castle, said in a tweet - now removed - that it had to turn down two Americans for dinner after they said they had just flown in from Denver.

Restaurants were allowed to reopen on Monday, June 29, after months of COVID-19-related lockdown.