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Indoor dining

Here's how indoor dining will resume for vaccinated and recovered people by 26 July

The announcement comes following days of discussions between representatives from the hospitality sector and the government .

CABINET HAS SIGNED off on new legislation to reopen indoor hospitality on a phased basis. 

While no official date has been set for businesses to reopen, the Government envisages the legislation will come into force sometime next week “hopefully before the weekend”.

The legislation needed to make the system legal will need to be passed by the Dáil and the Seanad this week, then be signed by the President before it can come into effect.

The legislation will run until 9 October, after which time any extension must be approved by the Dáil and Seanad.

Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin said the new laws are about balancing the advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) with the need to open hospitality.

“We can’t throw all the doors open and allow everyone in,” Martin told reporters. 

So, who will be allowed in, and how will it work? 

The legislation is aimed to be passed by the Dáil this week and to come into force next week, or by 26 July at the very latest.

Once approved, the plans will see indoor hospitality reopen to people who can produce verifiable evidence of full vaccination or immunity status.

The EU Digital Green Certificate will be used as an indoor dining pass, however, the use of other medical documentation is still under consideration.

Although the digital Covid cert allows people who have a negative PCR test result to travel around the EU, only fully vaccinated people with the pass or those who can show that they previously had Covid-19 will be permitted to dine indoors.

The first phase of the reopening will allow the people with evidence of full vaccination or immunity (within the last six months) entry to venues. Minors will also be allowed access to indoor hospitality, once they are accompanied by a vaccinated or immune guardian. 

Unvaccinated hospitality workers will be permitted to have a drink or meal in their place of work.

“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.
Pub, restaurant and café operators will have to ensure social distancing measures remain in place in order to protect workers and children in line with discussions with unions and the hospitality sector.

People vaccinated in Northern Ireland, the UK and the US will be allowed to dine indoors if they have verifiable proof of vaccination.

Fully vaccinated diners will be permitted a stay for one hour and 45 minutes – Taoiseach Micheál Martin explained earlier today that the time limit was being implemented out of an abundance of caution.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said this evening that the time limit will only apply where tables are less than two meters apart. 

Minister Catherine Martin confirmed this evening that there will be fines of up to €2,500 for forged documents or for premises that are not checking certificates.

Varadkar said gardaí will not be going into venues to check individual vaccine passes, but they will be checking if venues are making those checks.

“What we feared was repeat of Berlin D2, and then having to all of a sudden then put in place new laws and an inspection regime. So we thought it better to have the provision there at the start, so that if things do go wrong. We have the powers we need.”

The new measures will be kept under review by the inclusion of the hospitality sector in the Workplace Health and Safety Monitoring Oversight Group. 

What’s next? 

Minister Martin said this evening 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 operationalising the guidelines. It is planned that its first meeting will be held tomorrow. 

Detailed operational guidelines for reopening, due to be published by Fáilte Ireland in the coming days, are said to place a strong emphasis on the importance of effective ventilation – including increasing air flow, air extraction systems and the use of CO2 monitors.

Under phase two, the use of antigen testing may be deployed after the initial reopening of indoor dining is evaluated – facilitating access to those not already vaccinated.  

Phase three will be around access and how it can be provided with rapid antigen tests, pending the work of the Government’s expert advisory group on rapid testing, chaired by Professor Mary Horgan. 

Given the legislation has a sunset clause of 9 October, Minister Martin said the law will only last as long as necessary but could be extended by three months. 

There is also a provision in the bill to extend this system to other indoor settings that are currently closed, such as bingo halls or bowling alleys.

- With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha

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