Indoor dining will resume on Monday in Ireland, but the Tanaiste has warned that further restrictions are unlikely to be relaxed imminently because of concerns over the spread of the Delta variant.
The Cabinet met on Wednesday to agree that indoor service in bars and restaurants can resume on July 26 for those who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19.
There will be no time limit for eating inside bars and restaurants, but closing time will be set at 11:30pm.
I think without doubt we are now well into a fourth wave, a Delta wave of infectionsLeo Varadkar
An app is being developed in order to allow businesses to check customers’ Covid certificates at the door.
An Irish Government statement said: “Ireland is moving cautiously through the recovery phase of the pandemic.
“Today Government has decided that, as provided for in the Health (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2021, indoor hospitality can recommence on July 26.
“The Government continues to follow its plan to review and monitor the control of the virus and follow the prevailing public health advice in support of, and to protect, a safe and gradual reopening. The incidence of the Delta variant in Ireland poses a significant risk, particularly to those who are not yet fully vaccinated.”
Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said that despite the relaxation, the Government would take a cautious approach to further measures.
He said: “I think without doubt we are now well into a fourth wave, a Delta wave of infections. Nobody knows for sure how that will turn out, how long the wave will last or when it will peak.
“I suppose we are taking the optimistic view that we will take a similar course to Scotland, maybe peak around 3,000-4,000 cases over the next few weeks and then fall back and not see hospitalisations rise much above 500, ICU not much above 50.
“But we can’t know that for sure and that is why we need to be quite cautious in the next couple of weeks, and while restrictions will be eased in relation to indoor dining on Monday, I don’t anticipate there being very much easing beyond that, at least until we have a better idea as to where we stand with this Delta wave.”
Indoors will only be for people who are immune as a consequence of vaccination and can prove it, and children who are accompanying themTanaiste, Leo Varadkar
Referring to the return of indoor hospitality, Mr Varadkar said: “There will be guidelines from Failte Ireland, one in relation to pubs and one in relation to restaurants and cafes, and all that will be available for Monday.
“Indoors will only be for people who are immune as a consequence of vaccination and can prove it, and children who are accompanying them. People will need to show evidence of immunity on arrival before they take their seats.
“There won’t be time limits indoors but there will be distancing between tables, a maximum of six people, and people will need to wear masks as they walk around.
“The advice from Nphet is that people who are vaccinated don’t need to observe social distancing indoors, but because there will be children there we will continue to apply those regulations around social distancing in restaurants and pubs.”
The Tanaiste said the Delta wave of Covid infections is “serious”, but the situation is different to previous waves because of the vaccine programme.
He said: “This wave is serious and we need to ramp up the vaccination programme and that is what we are doing.
“We need to make sure we continue to improve test, trace and isolate, and that is what we are doing with antigen testing coming on board in the next week or so, we’ll be testing more people than ever before in the pandemic.
“We need to take this seriously, it is serious, but it is different because of the vaccination programme. The case fatality rate for Delta is one tenth what is was for Alpha because of the vaccine programme.”
Meanwhile, a further 1,378 cases of Covid-19 have been reported in Ireland.
As of Wednesday morning, there were 96 Covid-positive patients in hospital – with 22 in intensive care.