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Cabinet meets on Wednesday with final sign off on indoor dining reopening expected

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said Ireland is the last country in Europe to reopen indoor dining.

Inside Grogans, Dublin
Inside Grogans, Dublin

CABINET WILL ON Wednesday give the final sign off on the reopening of indoor dining in pubs and restaurants, it is expected.

Last week, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar confirmed that Monday, 26 July is the government target to get doors reopened for fully vaccinated people and those that are immune having had the virus in the last six months.

The Restaurants Association of Ireland is to meet with government officials tomorrow afternoon to sign off on draft guidelines for reopening.

One of the changes earmarked is the scrapping of the time limit of one hour and 45 minutes for indoor dining when pubs and restaurants reopen on July 26.

The industry is also calling for normal trading hours to resume. 

Speaking to reporters today, Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said that plans to reopen indoor dining are being carried out in a “very prudent and very cautious” way.

“We are probably the last country in the EU to reopen indoor hospitality and we are reopening in the most conservative manner possible.

“In most European countries, people can dine indoors and some can dine indoors if you have a negative PCR test.

“We are taking a very prudent and very cautious approach.

“Only a few weeks ago we were criticised for taking that approach.

“I think it’s important that we open things in a sustainable way, there is no doubt the number of cases in Ireland is going to increase and increase significantly over the days and weeks ahead, we are already seeing evidence of that,” said the minister. 

The government is understood to be looking at different models from other jurisdictions on the possible impact of the Delta variant.

Varadkar said Scotland, where their case numbers peaked at 3,500 cases, is one country Ireland is looking at, stating that they got to the point where they have about 500 or 600 in hospital, about 50 or 60 in ICU.

“If that’s the course we’re following, that is manageable,” he said, stating that Ireland having about 5% of hospital capacity being used by Covid cases, and 15% of ICU capacity, could be handled.

Harris said today they are following public health advice about the reopening of indoor hospitality.

“The government hasn’t received any new advice from the Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) that would suggest we should do anything other than proceed along the basis we are planning to do so,” he said.

He said that the number of people admitted to hospital will increase, and is already rising.

“This has always been a race between vaccine and variant. We are on track to have an overwhelming number of people fully vaccinated by the end of August,” he added.

“We are on track.

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“If you are not fully vaccinated, you are more likely to get Covid now than ever before, so you must exercise extreme caution,” added Harris.

Last week, despite significant backlash from the majority of the Opposition, the Dáil and Seanad passed the government’s legislation to allow for the reopening of indoor dining for those that are fully vaccinated or immune from the virus.

President Michael D Higgins must now sign the legislation into law, which he is expected to do this week.

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