Every Government decision on restrictions through the pandemic has thrown up situations that “seem a bit peculiar”, Minister Simon Harris has admitted.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, the Higher Education Minister defended yesterday’s Government announcement on the next phase of reopening.
From Friday, opening hours can return to normal at pubs and restaurants; however, bar service will remain banned.
Nightclubs can reopen, but people will be asked to wear masks "except when eating, drinking and dancing."
People will have to show vaccine passes to access indoor hospitality until February.
Government officials are meeting today to work out “clarifications and anomalies” in the guidelines, with Fáilte Ireland expected to publish updated guidelines later today.
Minister Harris said there will be specific guidance for each industry.
“There hasn’t been a time since this pandemic began where Government has made an announcement where there haven’t been areas that need clarity or seem a little bit peculiar,” he said.
“I am thinking of the €9 meal that you have to have to get to a pub and I am thinking about wet versus dry.
“This pandemic has constantly thrown up tricky situations where you have had to work your way through.
“What we are doing now – and we are doing based on public health advice – is recognising that pausing the reopening of these sectors will have minimal, if any, effect on this virus and actually, therefor, working sector by sector to put in place specific guidance is the way to proceed.
“I am conscious that today Government will be meeting with industry to tease through some of these details.”
He said a meeting involving a number of different State agencies this afternoon would provide clarity on the enforcement of vaccine passes moving forward.
Up to now enforcement of the guidelines has been a matter for the Health and Safety Authority and the HSE – with An Garda Síochána noting that its members do not act as “compliance officers” for the regulations.
Minister Harris said “rigorous enforcement” of the regulations would be needed.
“We are also having a meeting of our regulators today to check that the enforcement around that will be very rigorous because I think there has been slippage around that if I am being very honest - to put it mildly - in recent days,” he said.
He said officials would make decisions on any “grey areas” this afternoon.
“We are going to now tease through the detail, not just with the nightclub industry, but also late bars,” he said.
“There are grey areas - what is a late bar and what is a nightclub - those talks are led by Minister Catherine Martin’s department.”
Minister Harris also said he was surprised that National Immunisation Advisory Committee had yet to recommend booster vaccines for health care workers.
Booster vaccines are already being rolled out to the over-80s and the over-60s in long term care and the Government has confirmed that a booster campaign for all over-60s would begin at the start of November.
“I must say it surprises me that we don’t yet have a positive recommendation in relation to a booster programme for healthcare workers, it genuinely does,” he said.
“But I also know we have been very well served by our vaccine programme and in general by taking medical and clinical advice on these things – particularly when it comes to vaccination which is effectively a form of medication
“NIAC are considering the issue and will keep the issue under review.”
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