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Leo Varadkar says 105 minute time-limit for pubs and restaurants is 'under review' and he wants it gone

The Tánaiste denied that the time limit had no scientific basis.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.
Image: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

TÁNAISTE LEO VARADKAR has said the 105-minute time limit that applies to tables close together in indoor hospitality is being reviewed and that he would like to see it ended. 

Indoor hospitality in pubs and restaurants has not returned so far this year due to Covid-19 restrictions but guidelines have been issued for when it does. 

Those guidelines state that a 105-minute time limit will be in place for indoor dining where there is social distancing of one metre between tables but this time limit can be removed if there are two metres between tables. 

These guidelines were issued in May before the government last month took the decision to reopen indoor hospitality initially to people who are fully vaccinated only.

The government is planning that this system would be in place before the weekend of 25 July. 

Ahead of the reopening, there has been focus on the time limit for indoor hospitality that would see groups limited to a stay of 105 minutes at a table. 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said yesterday that the time limit was being implemented out of an abundance of caution.

Speaking on Newstalk’s The Hard Shoulder this evening, Varadkar said this time limit is “under review”.

“That’s one of the things that the working group under (Tourism Minister) Catherine Martin is going to examine before we open,” he said. 

The Tánaiste denied that the time-limit had no scientific basis.

“It’s to do with contact tracing and has to do with reducing the amount of time that anyone spends in an indoor space,” he said.

Bear in mind that only applies if the tables are less than two metres apart. So not in your fine dining restaurant or even your not too busy rural pub, it only applies wherever tables are close together. 

Varadkar said that it is “up to the proprietor” to decide how tables are spaced out “but that the one hour 45 minute thing is under review” 

He added: “It’s not something that was invented by my department or the Department of Tourism, it’s advice from NPHET. I understand why it is there and it is there to limit the amount of time that somebody spends in an enclosed place.”

Asked whether he like to see it removed, Varadkar said: “Yes, but I would prefer to do that with the support of our public health advisors rather than as a political decision.”

Speaking about the implementation of the new rules for indoor dining, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said earlier that the working group led by Martin would “work through the final details”.

“The working group is meeting to go through a lot of those details, we only passed the legislation yesterday in government. It has to go through the Dáill this week, we won’t introduce it until at least a week more than a week from now and in that interim period all those details will be worked out,” he said. 

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The Taoiseach told the Dáil that indoor dining will be opened on a phased basis, with fully vaccinated people allowed inside first, with the next phases allowing for the possibility of antigen and PCR testing be used as a means to gain entry. 

A government spokesperson confirmed this evening that a preliminary review of the system and how it operates will take place two weeks after indoor dining resumes.

With reporting by Christina Finn

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