The prospect of pubs not opening until a vaccine for Covid-19 is created has been described as a "nightmare scenario" by the Licensed Vintners Association.

The LVA said that such a situation would result in many public houses going out of business for good.

The association was reacting to comments by the Minister for Health in an interview with the Sunday Independent, in which he said that he could not visualise people being in packed pubs as long as the virus is still circulating.

He suggested that an effective vaccine or treatment might not be in place until 2021.

"That is the absolute nightmare scenario for the entire pub sector. If that happens then most pub businesses in this country will be out of business for good," said LVA Chief Executive Donall O'Keeffe.

"The LVA and its members will absolutely support whatever measures are deemed necessary in the interests of public health, as we have done from the beginning of this crisis, but if closing pubs until 2021 is going to be necessary then it is essential that a pub specific support scheme is introduced," he said.

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"Otherwise there won't be a pub industry in this country by the time a vaccine is found," he added.

The LVA has welcomed Government support for the 50,000 staff laid off for the crisis, but added that it would have to be extended for the duration of the closure period.

Meanwhile, economist Dr Alan Ahearne has said a "more extensive programme" is needed to help businesses in light of Covid-19.

Dr Ahearne said physical distancing restrictions will be "extremely hard to satisfy", and so he is suggesting that a voluntary euro increase on the price of a pint and a €10 Covid supplement for a meal could be the way out of the economic crisis that many pubs and restaurants are facing.

He believes cafes and restaurants "will not get enough revenue" to cover their costs, "due to constrained volumes", but he warned that if these establishments do not open for another 18 months to two years, "they may not reopen at all".

"It would be much better to open up albeit under strict physical restrictions, and charge a bit higher, than to not open up at all," he said.

All pubs, including hotel bars, were asked to close last month in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.

In relation to the re-opening of pubs, the Taoiseach said it impossible to say when they might be able to re-open but that he hoped we would not have to wait for a vaccine for that to be possible.

However, Leo Varadkar said that places where people congregate and where there are mass gatherings are likely to be the last to reopen.

He said it was a worrying time for those in the hospitality sector, but the Government currently does not have the answers.

"I wish I could give people more certainty but I really can't," he said.