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Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Micheál Martin on his way to announce the pause to indoor dining reopening, Source: merrionstreet.ie

Ireland delays resumption of indoor activities

Ireland delays resumption of indoor activities

A system to verify vaccination or immunity will be devised by 19 July

In a blow to the hospitality industry, the Irish government has put on hold, for an unspecified period of time, the planned resumption of indoor dining and a number of other indoor activities from 5 July. The next phase of re-opening in line with Recovery and Resilience: The Path Ahead plan will be based on a cautious approach with an emphasis on lower-risk activities, the government announced yesterday.

2000 deaths in worst-case scenario

The unexpected about-face is due to stern advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) regarding the projected spread of the Delta variant in Ireland and the risk it poses, particularly to people without full vaccination coverage. NPHET has prepared five scenarios of epidemic evolution, the worst-case one foreseeing almost 700 000 cases and up to 2170 deaths from Covid-19 between 1 July and 30 September if no restraints remain in place.

Addressing the nation on RTÉ channels, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Micheál Martin said that this is a difficult decision for so many businesses which had believed they would be able to open next week. He described the coronavirus situation as a race between the variants and vaccines, recalling that the vaccination programme continues at a fast pace with over 4 million doses administered and over 40 percent of the population in Ireland now fully vaccinated.

What will change?

The following changes will take effect from Monday, 5 July:

  • Indoor activities, such as organised events, return of service in bars and restaurants, group training, exercise and dance will not resume yet. Their reopening will depend on the implementation of a system to verify vaccination or immunity. The government commits to devising an implementation plan by 19 July in consultation with relevant sectors;
  • Outdoor events can go on with increased attendance numbers - up to 200 for the majority of stadia, and to 500 for stadia/venues with capacity greater than 5,000. Appropriate protective measures must be followed;
  • Vaccine and recovery bonus: there will be no limit on the numbers of people taking part in household visits once all are fully vaccinated, or have recovered from COVID-19 infection in the previous nine months;
  • Unvaccinated households may have visitors from one other unvaccinated household.
  • Weddings already planned may proceed with 50 guests attending and protective measures in place;
  • People should continue to work from home unless attendance in person is absolutely necessary;
  • Current government advice is to avoid non-essential international travel.

Extension of supports

  • The Pandemic Unemployment Payment to new entrants which was meant to expire at midnight of 30 June 2021 will be extended to midnight on 7 July 2021;
  • CRSS will be amended to allow for a double week payment from the week beginning 5 July for a period of two weeks. Payment is subject to the statutory cap of EUR 5,000 per week.

Out of sync with other EU countries

Ireland’s overly cautious approach to reopening indoor dining due to concerns about the spread of the Delta variant is at odds with its nearest neighbours, comments RTÉ. Other European Union member states, including France, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, and Portugal, allowed indoor hospitality to go ahead weeks ago, with caps on capacity and limits on the number of people per table. Nightclubs have also reopened in parts of Spain and the Netherlands.

The government’s decision to postpone the resumption of indoor dining has come under fire both from the hospitality sector and the political opposition. Labour leader Alan Kelly described the vaccine pass initiative as "bananas" and "discriminatory", while Sinn Féin expects to "better understand" the data and modelling that led to NPHET’s apocalyptic advice to Government.

Seeking clarity and compromise

Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar, quoted by RTE, said the NPHET’s worst-case scenario appears to be too pessimistic and hopes it will prove to be wrong, but the balance of risk is currently very high. He said the next three weeks would be used to speed up the vaccine programme and to monitor the Delta wave based on what is happening in the UK.

Varadkar’s comments come ahead of today’s talks where he, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin will meet representatives of the Hospitality Forum, an association of hotel, restaurant and licensed vintner groups.

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