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New Rules

NPHET recommends indoor dining and international travel to resume in July

The public health experts also recommended allowing up to 5,000 spectators in large outdoor stadiums from 2 August.

LAST UPDATE | 27 May 2021

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL IS earmarked to be permitted for non-essential reasons from 19 July after the government’s sub-committee on Covid-19 discussed a range of measures as part of the easing of restrictions over the next few months. 

Cabinet will meet in the morning to sign-off on the timeline, ahead of a public announcement in the evening. 

The sub-committee meeting wrapped up at around 10:30pm. It is understood that the National Public Health Emergency Team has recommended that indoor dining can return no sooner than 5 July.

NPHET also recommended that up to 5,000 spectators can attend outdoor events in large stadiums like Croke Park from 2 August. 

Smaller outdoor venues would have a limit of 500 people. 

Indoor events in large venues would have a capacity of 200 and smaller indoor venues would be limited to 100 people from this date. 

International travel

Speaking after the sub-committee meeting, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan confirmed the return of international travel is pencilled-in for 19 July.

France, Belgium and Luxembourg are also set to be removed from the mandatory hotel quarantine list and Ireland will join the European digital green cert system, which promises to allow movement within the EU.

“I’ll be honest, there’s going to be real requirement to ramp up the ability at the likes of our airports, to do all the tests and the checking, we still need to do that, that will be a real constraint,” Ryan said.

We saw in the UK, when they started opening up aviation, in Heathrow they had big queues. We have to start preparing. It’ll take a certain amount of time just to prepare for doing all the checks we need to do.

Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath said that there is a “growing sense of confidence” that restrictions can be further relaxed.

“We’re at a point now, thankfully, where we can consider making changes – in areas like international travel, in areas such as indoor dining, allowing people to go to outdoor events again in more significant numbers,” McGrath said on RTÉ’s Prime Time programme.

We’re moving to a space where changes that were unthinkable just a short few weeks ago are now coming into view.

NPHET also agreed that cinemas could reopen from 7 June.

These recommendations are still subject to full Cabinet approval. 

The government previously outlined details for parts of the planned reopening over the next few months, with details to be finalised further ahead of today’s announcement.

From 2 June (next Wednesday), hotels, B&Bs and other accommodation services are due to reopen.

From 7 June, restaurants and pubs can reopen for outdoor dining services and people are set to be allowed visitors from one other household inside their homes.

The maximum number of guests at a wedding reception should increase to 25 and outdoor sports matches are permitted with no spectators. 

Gyms, swimming pools and leisure centres are also due to reopen for individual training from 7 June.

There had been robust discussion about the hospitality guidelines before tonight’s sub-committee met. 

The government is expected to review the guidelines for pubs and restaurants “in a few weeks”, after strong disagreements among TDs both inside and outside government over the Fáilte Ireland guidelines which were released on Wednesday.  

Sinn Féin had criticised the proposed rules, including the 105-minute time limit for indoor dining and the 11.30pm curfew, as “illogical and unfair”.  

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said in the Dáil that the time limit rule is there to prevent diners that are in the same dining room for longer than two hours being considered close contacts. 

He said the rules are “more liberal” than they were last year, but said the guidelines announced yesterday “are not the final word on this”. 

Ireland’s number of Covid-19 cases has remained largely unchanged in recent weeks – Leo Varadkar told the Dáil that the number of people in ICU is below 50 and the number of cases is “stable at about 400 or 500 a day”. 

“We are ahead of ourselves in terms of where we thought we would be with hospitalisations and cases,” he said. 

“For that reason, we can look forward to a very positive announcement on Friday regarding the reopening of society and economy and the phased return to international travel, events and other matters.”

There will be a further announcement next week on the government’s plans for pandemic welfare supports. 

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told party colleagues on Wednesday that there would be no dramatic changes to these supports, stating that they will have to be phased out. 

NPHET met this week to put together its advice and present it to government. 

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said that “NPHET’s view is the trajectory is positive” after meeting with Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan. 

The minister said that the Irish people have gotten behind the measures and are keeping case numbers and hospitalisation figures low.

Last week, Taoiseach Micheál Martin told his Fianna Fáil parliamentary party colleagues that there is a necessity to restore travel and aviation. 

- Additional reporting by Christina Finn and Céimin Burke.

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