The Government has confirmed that nightclubs can reopen this Friday - but extra restrictions will need to be in place.
Cabinet is meeting this morning to decide whether to partially delay Friday’s planned reopening.
The use of vaccine certs in pubs and restaurants is likely to be extended, with mask-wearing and social distancing to continue in some settings.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has confirmed nightclubs CAN re-open under NPHET advice but with extra restrictions in place.
Which in reality may mean many of them can't open
— Seán Defoe (@SeanDefoe) October 19, 2021
Speaking on his way into Cabinet, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly
“I don’t want to pre-empt Cabinet but what I am happy to say to you is the advice from NPHET is […] they would advise continuing with the reopening of society but doing so in a way that is very cognisant of the disease,” he said. “With widespread use of the COVD pass and very clear enforcement of the use of the COVID pass.”
“The data that NPHET has looked at has shown there has been pretty good use of the COVID pass but there is more we can go.
“So essentially NPHET is saying yes to nightclubs but with conditions around COVID passes and social restrictions but obviously I don’t want to pre-empt whatever might be decided by Government on that.”
He said the advice from NPHET is “broad” and Cabinet must now decide how to implement it.
“It says we can reopen but in a safe way with COVID passes and with public health measures inside,” he said.
“Exactly what those measures will be, I think, will be a matter for Government in the first instance and then also what will happen is there is very detailed sectoral guidance to be worked out with the line agency or the line department.”
Meanwhile, the use of vaccine passes and masks in indoor settings may be kept until January.
Minister Eamon Ryan has said the use of Digital Covid Certs and mask wearing may be kept until January 2022
— Seán Defoe (@SeanDefoe) October 19, 2021
Minister Donnelly also confirmed that fully vaccinated close contacts will soon be sent rapid antigen tests by the HSE.
“At the moment, if you are a fully vaccinated close contact, there is no advice or requirement for you to get any test,” he said.
“But, given the current prevalence of the disease, we are changing that advice so what will happen now is, if you are deemed to be close contact and you are fully vaccinated we will send you out rapid testing.”
Minister Donnelly said NPHET modelling suggests hospitalisations could reach as high as 1,000 within six weeks, if the original reopening plans went ahead.
“If we were to remove all restrictions from this Friday, the modelling suggests we could, by the end of November, be at about 800 to 1,000 hospital cases with about – this is probably more important – about 150 to 200 of those in being in ICU,” he said.
“Now what that would mean is very widespread cancellation of elective surgeries. We have a lot of children and a lot of adults who are scheduled or surgery who need that surgery. If we ended up at that level of ICU, as has happened in the past, there would have to be quite widespread cancellations.”
He said his message to the public is: “For those who have yet to get vaccinated, please get vaccinated.”
“Right now, two in every three people in ICU are completely unvaccinated,” he said.
“About 7% of the adult population is unvaccinated. So, we have a relatively small number of people representing two-thirds of all of our people in ICU. That is putting a huge amount of pressure on our hospital system and the advice from (Chief Medical Officer) Dr Tony Holohan is that is going to get worse before it gets better.
“There has been an increase in cases and we haven’t yet seen that increase translate into hospitalisations and translate into ICU numbers.”
Taoiseach Micheal Martin said Government has to be careful.
“We are in a much different position to last year,” he said. “We have reopened significant sections of society with significant impact on the economy - to the better.
“I think we need to protect all of that and we need to proceed with caution over the next number of months to defeat this virus."
— NewstalkFM (@NewstalkFM) October 19, 2021
The Taoiseach also confirmed that NIAC has recommended an extension of the vaccine booster programme to the over-60s.
“I think that is a significant decision that will help in dealing with the ongoing challenge of Delta and of COVID,” he said.
“In addition to that, there is a whole range of measures NPHET is recommending around behaviour and around the continuing use of masks in a whole range of settings and also in terms of the vaccination certificates which Government will consider later.”
Reporting from Stephanie Rohan at Dublin Castle