Typical Irish inn

Ireland reopens indoor dining for the vaccinated

Ireland reopens indoor dining for the vaccinated

The bill has narrowly passed through the lower house of parliament with the opposition labelling the plan as unworkable and discriminatory

The Irish government managed on Wednesday to push through Dáil (the lower house of parliament) its controversial bill which allows access to indoor dining only to those who have been fully vaccinated, or recovered from COVID-19, with some exceptions for children and staff.

After a heated debate, the Health Amendment 2 Bill was passed by a narrow margin of 74 to 68 votes and will now go to Seanad (the upper house) for final approval.

Delta variant delays reopening plan

The resumption of indoor restaurant and bar services, initially scheduled for 5 July, has been delayed due to the Delta variant gaining the upper hand in the UK, among other countries, and models predicting a devastating impact on public health if Ireland is to lower its guard. Therefore, NPHET has recommended a cautious approach with indoor dining reserved for those who are fully vaccinated or reconvalescent. Over 2 million people in Ireland are fully protected by vaccination to this date.

Measures at a glance

Following consultations with hospitality industry representatives and unions, the government has decided on the following measures:

  • Indoor hospitality restrictions are eased for people who are fully protected by vaccination or who have recovered from Covid-19 in the previous six months.
  • To gain access to indoor services, these people need to present proof of vaccination or immunity status. After verification, customer data will not be retained by the catering/drinking establishment.
  • The EU Digital Covid Certificate (DCC) can be presented as evidence of completed vaccination cycle, alongside other medical documentation, which will be specified in guidelines to be issued shortly.
  • Visitors to Ireland outside the EU, including the US, Great Britain and Northern Ireland can verify their vaccination or immunity status through a nationally certified equivalent, in line with the Government policy on international travel.
  • Children under the age of 18 accompanied by a vaccinated or recovered adult parent or guardian can also avail of indoor services.

Social distancing measures will remain in place, especially in hotels, where fully vaccinated and recovered non-residents are likely to be mixing with vaccinated and unvaccinated residents and staff.

Clashing views

During the debate, all opposition deputies lambasted the new indoor dining measures as discriminatory and unenforceable, and even some government backbenchers confided concerns about the legislation’s constitutionality. Minister for Health Stephen Donnely defended the plan, saying that the entire EU Digital Covid Certificate is based on vaccination status and Ireland has already accepted this principle.

Striking a conciliatory note, Tánaiste (Deputy PM) Leo Varadkar acknowledged that the plan is “imperfect”, but still a better “middle, safe path” between the other two options of either reopening indoor hospitality with no strings attached or keeping it closed until herd immunity is achieved nationwide.

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