Reopening: What could a vaccine pass for dining indoors at pubs and restaurants look like?

The government is to consider adapting the EU’s international travel cert for use in indoor dining.

THE GOVERNMENT IS to consider using the European travel cert for its system that would allow vaccinated people to dine indoors, the Tánaiste has said.

Leo Varadkar said this morning that the government will try to work out whether the EU Digital Covid-19 Certificate for international travel can be adapted to use for indoor activities.

The planned reopening of indoor hospitality for 5 July was delayed yesterday after advice from public health experts that recommended an initial return of indoor dining for only vaccinated people would be safer than reopening to everyone.

Cabinet decided to extend the restrictions on pubs and restaurants serving indoors to give itself time to develop a system that could verify whether a person has been vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 in the last nine months.

There are have been no decisions made yet on what that system will be, and Cabinet has given itself until 19 July to develop an “implementation plan”.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland, the Tánaiste said that “we have done a lot of work on a digital Covid cert for international travel and one thing we’re going to try and work out over the next couple of days now is whether we can adapt that for use for indoor activities in Ireland”.

Another factor the government will be considering is whether children under the age of six could be made exempt from the vaccine requirement at pubs and restaurants.

However, for children under 16 – who cannot currently avail of a vaccine – Varadkar said that “that’s more difficult because children of that age group can get and transmit the virus”.

“But these are things we’re going to have to figure out and try to work out over the next period.”

On discrepancies between dining indoors in hotels, which has been permitted for guests since the start of June, and the expected new rules for pubs and restaurants, he said that there “will be anomalies and there are details we have to work out”.

“So when it comes to hotels, you know, it’s always been the case, the hotel residents have been able to be served food, and the reason why that is is that even during Level Five, even during the worst period of the pandemic, we allowed hotel residents to be served a meal indoors. And that’s not something that we intend to change,” he said.

The Tánaiste said that given that the digital certificate works on the basis of being vaccinated, recovered, or having a recent negative test, the government will need to give “close consideration” to the option of using negative tests for entry to indoor dining.

“It would be a departure from public health advice, I need to be straight about that, but I think that is something that will have to form part of our considerations,” he said.

How does the EU digital cert work?

The EU Digital Covid Certificate will show proof that a person has either been vaccinated against Covid-19, received a negative test result, or recovered from Covid-19 in the last six months.

It was designed as a way to facilitate international travel between EU member states and comes into effect around Europe from tomorrow.

Under Ireland’s international travel measures, non-essential travel is allowed again from 19 July, and the digital certificate will be used for travel within the EU.

If you receive a vaccine or a Covid-19 test in an EU country, you can receive the certificate for free in both English and the state’s official language.

The certificate will show the individual’s name, date of birth, date the cert was issued, the relevant information about the vaccine, test, or recovery, and a unique identifier number.

Passengers who enter Ireland from an EU or EEA country with the certificate will not be required to quarantine on arrival.

What are other countries doing?

Elsewhere in Europe, indoor hospitality has largely returned, with some countries operating systems that require proof of vaccination to dine indoors.

In Cyprus, for example, diners must present a ‘SafePass’ to be served inside.

The SafePass indicates if they have had Covid-19 in the last six months, if they have had a negative test in the last 72 hours, or if they have had at least one dose of a vaccine three weeks beforehand.  

It’s also used for entry to shopping centres and some sports facilities.

Similarly, in Austria, a negative Covid-19 test or proof of vaccine or past infection is required to visit a restaurant, as well as a maximum limit of four adults (plus children) at a table.

The Czech Republic, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Monaco, some areas of Germany and Moscow in Russia ask for proof of vaccination or a negative test.

The Netherlands requires that hospitality staff are tested twice a week, as well as a maximum of four people per table. 

Israel was operating a ‘Green Pass’ for entry to businesses, which had to be presented along with ID like a driver’s license or passport, but the pass is no longer required because of the high level of vaccination.

Individuals were eligible for a Green Pass if they were vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19.

Teenagers aged 16 or under could receive the pass if they tested negative through a PCR test, with validity until midnight on the day that fell three days after they received the result.

Contains reporting by Niamh Quinlan

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