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Dáil extends law allowing vaccine pass for indoor dining to January as a 'precaution'

Government says it plans to scrap the use of the Covid pass on 22 October.

The Restaurant Association of Ireland have asked why the legislation has been pushed out to January.
The Restaurant Association of Ireland have asked why the legislation has been pushed out to January.
Image: Shutterstock/EmmepiPhoto

LAST NIGHT THE Dáil approved the extension of legislation that gives emergency powers to the minister to introduce vaccine passports for indoor dining until 9 January.

The Government is keen to stress it remains the plan that all restrictions relating to the requirement for certification of vaccination, immunity or testing before entering a pub or restaurant, and other indoor activities, will be lifted on 22 October

The extension, which effectively gives the minister the power to re-impose the regulations, is “precautionary”. 

The Act was scheduled to fall prior to 22 October, when restrictions are set to be lifted.

Due to the legislation setting out that only one extension can be made under the Act, it was decided to push the date out to January, say sources.

It is understood that the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan has briefed government that Ireland is on course to lift all restrictions, other than face-mask wearing in some environments, on 22 October.

However, sources state that government was also briefed that “winter is coming” and it is best to have the powers in “reserve” should they need to be used. 

Even though the legislation has been extended, restaurateurs and publicans will not be allowed to seek a customer’s Covid pass before allowing entry. 

When asked if restaurants or pubs will be able to use their own discretion, and ask customers to show their vaccination or immunity certs after restrictions are lifted, a government spokesperson said:

“No, as these provisions also need a regulation signed by the Minister responsible to bring it into force. The Minister for Health will sign a regulation to cover October 9 to October 22,” they said. 

However, the Restaurants Association of Ireland have raised questions as to why legislation pertaining to their business has been extended, and also why the extension was pushed out to January. 

The Social Democrats had put down an amendment to extend the provision by one month, but it was voted down.

Speaking in the Dáil about the extension, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said:

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“We are on track for 22 October but there will be final public health recommendations and a Government decision when all of those services would just go back to normal.

“Obviously, we all want to keep the basic measures in mind and in place but there would be no restrictions other than that they would follow the good advice that they ought to follow.”

He explained that extending the provision is specifically around indoor hospitality, and allows him to re-introduce the Covid pass, should he see fit.

“That is it. It is not about the ability to bring in a lot of other wide-ranging powers. It is specifically around hospitality. It is based on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer who has identified this, as has been identified in a lot of other countries, as being one of the higher risk measures for all of the reasons we understand. A lot of countries around Europe are still imposing this restriction for indoor dining and indoor drinking for those very reasons,” he said.

“I have mentioned already in the House how mindful we still need to be about the precariousness of the disease. It is not one that lends itself to being easily controlled or managed, as we know. For this reason, the chief medical officer has given the advice that he has,” he said, adding that he was was disappointed that some members of the Opposition would not support the extension.

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