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Time limits on indoor dining set to be scrapped, but 11.30pm closing time to remain

Government officials will meet later today with representatives from the restaurant and pub sectors.

Image: Shutterstock/Yulia Grigoryeva

Updated Jul 20th 2021, 7:50 PM

FINAL GUIDELINES FOR indoor dining have been agreed between government officials, publicans and restaurateurs.

The final draft of regulations, which will now go to Cabinet for approval tomorrow, will see time limits for dining scrapped from the guidelines.

Despite calls from the sector for normal trading hours to resume, the 11.30pm closing is set to remain, but will be reviewed down the line.

A Digital Covid Certificate QR reader will also be used by pubs and restaurants in order to check for valid certificates.

There has also been a significant update in ventilation guidelines in the Health and Safety Authority return to work protocol.

It contains guidelines for the installation of effective ventilation, including increasing air flow, air extraction systems and the use of CO2 monitors.

Unvaccinated children will be allowed join vaccinated adults once seated two metres away from other tables.

Indoor hospitality in pubs and restaurants is to reopen from next Monday, it is expected.

Adrian Cummins, Restaurants Association of Ireland has called for a robust inspection regime by the State to give confidence to the public that restaurants, pubs and cafes are a safe place for indoor dining for customers vaccinated and those who have recovered from Covid.

Today’s meeting included a number of stakeholders, including the Restaurants Association of Ireland and government officials including the Depatments of Taoiseach, Tánaiste, Enterprise, Tourism, Health and Public Expenditure plus Gardaí, Fáilte Ireland, the HSE and Health and Safety Authority.

Representatives from trade unions were also involved in the talks.

Three phases

Earlier today, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said the three stages of reopening indoor dining was the best way to reduce risk. 

Phase one will allow fully vaccinated people or a person who has recovered from Covid-19 dine to indoors, with children under 18 who are not vaccinated also permitted inside.

Phase two will see people allowed indoors if they can produce a negative PCR test, while phase three will see those with a negative antigen test allowed inside a pub or restaurant.

The draft guidelines state that customers who want to temporarily leave a pub or restaurant will have to be stamped or tagged, and must be checked upon  return into the premises.

Speaking to reporters today, Donohoe said it was “critical” that pubs and restaurants adopt the policies which have been agreed to facilitate the reopening of indoor hospitality.

But he would not be drawn on whether the sector could face closure again in light of rising case numbers, with the minister stating that the focus is currently on getting the sector fully reopened.

Opposition TDs have called the legislation underpinning the rules “discriminatory”.

Tomorrow Cabinet will give the final sign off on the reopening of indoor dining in pubs and restaurants.

Donohoe said that he is “hopeful” that the plan to allow reopening next Monday will go ahead, but he also warned that the government has to be satisfied that it is consistent with what “is necessary from a public health point of view”.

There is “no certainty” when it comes to Covid-19, said the minister, who added that the safest way to balance and reduced the risk is to follow the protocols that have been agreed with the industry.

The minister said the vaccination programme is making good progress, with more than 350,000 doses administered each week over the last five weeks.

“We in the battle between infections and injections of vaccinations, we are making such progress,” he said.

He said the country is in a battle with a disease that is “pitiless and always evolving” but that the government has to look at “how to have a society that is more safely and sustainably open”.

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“Hospitality has been open in many other countries now for quite a while and in fact other countries are now looking at how they can implement forms of a system that’s quite similar to what I hope we’re going to be able to implement,” he said. 

Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) Chief Executive Padraig Cribben confirmed this evening that guidelines that will allow pubs reopen on Monday are almost complete.

“We have made steady progress in devising guidelines that will allow our members open on Monday. There remains details to be finalised but the removal of time limits will be welcomed by the trade. 

“Confirmation of next Monday’s reopening will be made at Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting but guidelines cannot be finalised until the legislation underpinning the reopening is signed by the President over the coming days.

“While our members will be relieved to reopen next Monday there remains a significant challenge in policing the vaccine pass. It will require the full support of the public to ensure this temporary solution runs smoothly,” said Cribben.

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