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Saturday 9 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C

Children to be allowed to dine indoors with their fully-vaccinated parents

Ministers today agreed on rules to reopen indoor dining, with exemptions for children and hospitality staff.

CHILDREN WILL BE allowed to dine indoors at a café, pub or restaurant with their fully vaccinated parents or guardian, as part of new pandemic laws that will limit indoor hospitality to people who are fully vaccinated.

At an incorporeal meeting of Cabinet this evening, ministers signed off on a phased approach to reopening indoor hospitality – it is hoped that it will be passed before next weekend.

At a briefing after Cabinet, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the only part that “deviated” from the public-health advice given by NPHET, after it warned against fully reopening due to the spread of the Delta variant, was allowing children to dine indoors with their parents. 

“We’re trying to be practical around this,” he said. “We don’t want to have to separate parents from their kids, particularly on holidays, and that’s why we are making this exception for children, and they may be accompanied by their parents – or it could be grandparents.”

The Enterprise Minister said that there would also be an exception made for unvaccinated staff working in hospitality.

“They will of course be able to get a drink or have a meal, after or before work, in the place in which they work,” he said.

There has been controversy around the reopening of indoor dining, with questions raised about the inequality between people who are vaccinated and who are unvaccinated. The Tánaiste said this evening that “making these kinds of distinctions goes against my instincts”. 

“I wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t for the fact that we have very strong public health advice that this is the only way that we can open indoor hospitality safely. And I hope and I believe it will be temporary,” he said.

Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin said at the briefing that the new laws are about balancing NPHET’s advice with the need to open hospitality.

“We can’t throw all the doors open and allow everyone in,” she said.

The Minister also said that she will set up an indoor hospitality guidelines working group, with Fáilte Ireland, the Department of Health and the HSA, with a view to operationalise the guidelines. It is planned that its first meeting will be held tomorrow. 

Detailed operational guidelines for reopening will be published by Fáilte Ireland in the coming days, with a strong emphasis on effective ventilation expected. 

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