Jack Quann
Jack Quann

17.37 13 Jul 2021


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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has confirmed a 105-minute time limit for people who can access indoor hospitality is already under review.

He says this rule will be looked at before the sector opens to vaccinated people, or those who have recovered from COVID-19.

And that he personally would like to see the time limit rule removed, but that this should be done with support of public health advisers.

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Cabinet has signed on plans to re-open indoor dining for people who can prove their vaccine or immunity status.

Pubs and restaurants will be asked to check whether people have a Digital COVID Cert before letting them in and fines of up to €2,000 can be handed out to people caught forging documents.

The bill includes provisions to extend the system to other leisure outlets like bingo halls and bowling alleys later in the summer.

But Mr Varadkar told The Hard Shoulder public health advice means indoor hospitality can open 'right away'.

"We are going to be able to open indoor dining and drinking, indoor hospitality, get lots of businesses open, get lots of people back to work.

"The public health advice is that we can open indoor hospitality right away - provided it's only for people who are vaccinated and recovered from COVID in the past six months.

"At the moment people are receiving by post or by e-mail their Digital COVID Certs, and that's the evidence that you'll use when you're going into a pub or a restaurant or a café - and will allow you to access indoors.

"We're one of the last countries in Europe to open up indoor hospitality, but you've probably noticed that other countries in Europe that looked like they're ahead of us are now actually doing exactly this.

"France and Greece in the last day or so announcing that they're going to bring in a similar system."

He also says a time limit of 105 minutes for people to dine and drink indoors is already being reviewed.

"That is under review by the way, so that's one of the things that the Working Group under Catherine Martin is going to examine before we open.

"It's to do with contact tracing, and it's to do with reducing the amount of time that anyone spends in an indoor space.

"And bear in mind that only applies if the tables are less than two metres apart.

"So in your fine dining restaurant or even your not too busy rural pub, it only applies where tables are close together - but that is under review".

Mr Varadkar says he does want to see the rule removed, but "I would prefer to do that with the support of our public health advisers rather than a political decision".

'I don't see what the alternative is'

He adds while the system is not perfect, it is the best they have at the moment.

"This isn't going to be perfect and this isn't going to be fool-proof, and we're not out to catch people out here and we're not out to get people here.

"What we're trying to do is to open indoor hospitality and dining safely throughout the Delta wave and keep it open through future waves if they occur.

"And we do accept that it is imperfect, but it is the only way  that we can safely open indoor hospitality - and I don't see what the alternative is.

"Some people say 'Wait 'till September until all adults are vaccinated' but there will still be some adults not vaccinated then.

"We just can't say when we'll achieve herd immunity to this virus - so we have to come up with mechanisms that are practical, that allow people to return to international travel, that allow people return to indoor hospitality [and] other activities.

"It's not going to be perfect: people forge driving licenses, they forge passports, people break the law.

"But generally speaking, Irish people have been very good at adhering to the COVID rules and regulations and there has been very little of that".

Mr Varadkar also suggests we will not be able to "comfortably say that this pandemic is behind us until we get through another winter".

Time limit on indoor dining 'is under review', Tánaiste confirms

00:00:00 / 00:00:00

    

'Unworkable'

Opposition politicians have branded the legislation around indoor dining as "illogical, stupid and unworkable".

Members of the Oireachtas Health Committee say they are totally unhappy with the detail given by health officials on the bill.

Many, including Labour leader Alan Kelly, believe it is unworkable.

He says: "I can't fathom it... why a Government would actually go down this road with an unenforceable, unworkable and discriminatory piece of legislation.

"It would be far easier to use the COVID travel cert as the mechanism by which you open up indoor dining and hospitality, which we support."

It also comes as hundreds of thousands of Irish people will be receiving their EU Digital COVID Cert in the next few days days, either by post or e-mail.

The certs - aimed at allowing easier travel between EU member states - will be available for anyone who has been fully vaccinated, as well as those who've recovered from COVID-19 in the last six months.

However, only the former group will be receiving the certs automatically.

Main image: Tánaiste Leo Varadkar speaking to the media while arriving at Dublin Castle for a Cabinet meeting. Picture by: Sasko Lazarov / RollingNews.ie

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