Indoor dining legislation to go before Dáil next week
A bill to amend the 1947 Public Health Act to allow vaccinated people eat and drink inside bars and restaurants is being worked on.
The legislation is set to go before the Dáil and Seanad next week.
The measures in the bill would effectively expire once the population was vaccinated.
The Government is hoping there will be all party agreement on the bill to get sectors opened in accordance with public health advice.
It is understood that 26 July rather than 19 July is viewed as a more realistic date to reopen indoor hospitality under this new system.
Sinn Féin’s Health spokesperson David Cullinane said his party has serious concerns about a two-tier reopening.
“It may cause practical difficulties and will be seen as unfair. We will see what plan emerges but it has to be a safe reopening for all,” he said.
Earlier, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said primary legislation, followed by regulations, will be required to ensure there is a “solid legal grounding” for the reopening of indoor hospitality.
He declined to give a date when then reopening might happen.
Use of EU Digital Covid Certificate
His comments followed a meeting between representatives of the hospitality sector and senior Government officials to assess how restaurants and pubs could reopen.
It is understood that the discussions focused on how the EU Digital Covid Certificate could be used to secure admission to any premises, and how the new system could be policed.
The certificates are being sent to fully vaccinated people from Monday.
The Restaurants Association of Ireland said it was pushing for 19 July as the date to restart indoor dining.
Adrian Cummins CEO of the RAI said a plan has been devised that is not perfect but is enough to make indoor hospitality a reality
He said the European Digital Covid Certificate will be used to allow vaccinated and those recovered form Covid to eat and drink indoors.
There are also plans around the use of additional ventilation and CO2 monitors
He said they would also look at the use of antigen and PCR testing as a means to access indoor hospitality in later phases of reopening.
And he said the Health and Safety Authority, Environmental Health Officers, Fáilte Ireland and the Gardaí would all have a role in policing of the new system.
Mr Cummins said issues in relation to families with unvaccinated children eating indoors have yet to be ironed out.
Meanwhile, the VFI said that six reopening scenarios will be presented to Cabinet for a final decision next Tuesday.
VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben said: “Our primary goal is to get our members reopened in a safe manner both for publicans, their staff and customers.
“If a so-called vaccine pass is what’s required then the onus is now on Government to get the legislation passed next week before the Oireachtas takes its summer break.
“There remain legal issues to be resolved but we remain insistent that pubs need to reopen on 19 July. If the political will is there to make it happen then it will happen.”
The LVA, which also attended the meeting, said it has “no option but to go along with the Government proposals for permitting indoor hospitality”.
LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe said: “We don’t like this approach and we don’t want it. We feel it is deeply problematic on a practical level. But when the choice comes down to this proposal or staying closed for several more months, we feel we have no option but to go along with it.
“With some pubs having now been shut for almost 16 consecutive months we’re being put over a barrel because we have to get the sector open or more businesses will go bust and thousands more will lose their livelihoods.
“The system they are putting forward is open to abuse and there will be real questions and concerns in the coming weeks as to whether everyone claiming to be vaccinated will be.
“It is also deeply unfair and discriminatory towards hospitality staff and others who may not yet have been vaccinated or who are unable to do so for various reasons.”
The Taoiseach has said that two million people in Ireland are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
In a post on Twitter, Mr Martin also said that 70% of adults have received at least one dose of a vaccine.
He praised the “brilliant effort by all the HSE staff and volunteers” involved in the roll-out of the vaccination programme.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly hailed “another great milestone in our Covid-19 vaccination programme” and urged people to get their second vaccine dose “for the best possible protection” against the coronavirus.
Additional reporting: Paul Cunningham