Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

13.15 29 Jun 2021


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The Taoiseach has confirmed the return of indoor activities is being delayed by at least two weeks.

Micheál Martin said the country is in a race between the vaccine rollout and the Delta variant.

A number of indoor activities had been due to be allowed resume from next week, but those plans have now been postponed.

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Indoor dining is expected to open to fully vaccinated people or those who've recovered from COVID sometime after July 19th, with a system for managing it being worked out over the coming weeks.

Today's announcements followed a stark warning from the National Public Health Emergency Team about the risks posed by the variant.

NPHET warned the Government that in a worst-case scenario, Ireland could see more than 2,000 deaths COVID-19 related deaths by September.

However, that was the worst-case - with a more optimistic projection instead putting the number of deaths at 165.

Following a NPHET recommendation, ministers will now give consideration to the controversial proposal to only allow those fully vaccinated or who've recovered from COVID-19 to dine indoors.

Indoor activities such as the return of indoor training and dance classes will also not proceed as planned next week.

However, other planned easing of restrictions in July - including allowing up to 50 guests at weddings and increased crowd sizes at outdoor events - are to go ahead from July 5th.

There will also be no limit on the amount of fully vaccinated people who can meet together indoors, with that 'vaccine and recovery bonus' also applying to people who've recovered from the virus in the past nine months.

Plans for international travel are still set to go ahead as planned from July 19th, although that won’t be given the final green light until closer to the time.

Addressing the nation this lunchtime, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said concern has been growing around the world about the Delta variant in recent weeks.

He said the Government wants to avoid having things open and then close again.

Speaking about the proposals to limit indoor dining, he said: “Over the course of the coming weeks, Government will work urgently with the relevant sectors to agree a practical and workable approach.

“The simple truth is we are in a race between the variant and vaccines and we want to make that the vaccine wins.”

The Taoiseach said he recognises the delay to indoor activities will cause "dismay" to many people and businesses, and additional supports will be provided to impacted sectors.

He described today's decision as another "twist" in the country's COVID-19 journey - but said the country is still on track to emerge from the pandemic.

Stressing that the country is still making significant progress in combatting COVID-19, Mr Martin said NIAC's new advice around vaccines means many more people will get vaccinated sooner.

The Government has announced the Pandemic Unemployment Payment will also stay open to new applicants for an extra week in light of the continued restrictions.

Applications will now close on July 7th, rather than the previously planned date of June 30th.

Indoor dining proposals

There has already been a backlash from the political system - including a number of Government TDs and Senators - about the proposals to delay and then restrict indoor dining.

The proposal is beset by challenges from the start.

There's the issue of younger, unvaccinated workers being asked to check if diners are fully vaccinated, as well as the potential for people to forge vaccination documents.

Huge issues around the actual enforcement were raised by Cabinet ministers in this morning's meeting.

There are further constitutional and civil liberties questions about allowing one section of the population more freedoms than another based on whether or not they have a vaccine.

The Government is going to try to work around the issues, but some ministers feel they’ve now been left to deal with some very tricky NPHET proposals.

Restaurant owners and publicans have already rejected the proposals, with the Restaurants Association of Ireland calling them “flawed, unworkable, discriminatory and currently illegal".

The Irish Council of Civil Liberties has also voiced its concern, saying the reopening "must happen on equal footing for all, not just vaccinated".

Main image: File photo of Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photograph: Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie

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