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Leah Farrell

'It's not an outdoors-only summer': Cabinet to discuss easing of restrictions on travel and dining

The Tánaiste said that 60% of the adult population would be fully vaccinated by the end of July.

TÁNAISTE LEO VARADKAR has said that businesses who cannot open indoor areas for the month of June will continue to be compensated by continuing to receive the COVID-19 Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS).

The Minister for Enterprise and Trade said this morning that the Government is still concerned about the variant first detected in India, and said that 60% of the Irish adult population would be fully vaccinated by the end of July.

Varadkar was speaking after the National Public Health Emergency Team’s Covid-19 recommendations last night, and ahead of a Cabinet meeting to discuss and sign off on the easing of restrictions during the summer months.

An official announcement by the Taoiseach is due this evening.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland, the Tánaiste said that businesses who can’t open their indoor spaces for customers between now and July will be compensated by the Government. It comes after pubs and restaurants lobbied for the Covid restrictions to be eased to allow for indoor dining from early June.

“We’re going to continue to pay the CRSS payment – that’s the weekly payment for businesses that are closed – we’re going to continue to pay that to restaurants and pubs, even when they open outdoors,” he said.

From next Wednesday 2 June, hotels, B&Bs and other accommodation services are due to reopen, where residents will be permitted to dine indoors.

Outdoor dining will be allowed from 7 June, he said, and indoor dining will be permitted after “a matter of weeks”. It’s understood that this date will be Monday 5 July.

“It’s going to be an outdoor summer, but not outdoors only,” he said.

Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín criticised the gap between indoor dining in hotels being allowed sooner than in pubs and restaurants: “A pint in a pub is no more dangerous than a pint in a hotel,” he said.

“On what basis is the government then making the decision to keep pubs and restaurants closed until July?

“We want the government to publish the minutes of the meetings of the decision-making group. We also want to the draft documents that were used in the decision making published. This particular decision is illogical and is clouded in secrecy”.

“50% of the population has been vaccinated. Hospital numbers are extremely low, thankfully. We are calling on the government to reopen all hospitality together under the same regulations.”

International travel 

All EU countries are to come off the mandatory hotel quarantine list, Varadkar said. This is to facilitate the introduction of the Digital Green Certificate, or the EU’s Covid passport.

This will allow those who are fully vaccinated, have produced a negative Covid test result from the previous 72 hours, or who have fully recovered from Covid to travel in the EU.

But Varadkar said that due to concerns about the Indian variant, there will be restrictions on people travelling from Britain to Ireland – but there are no restrictions on those travelling from Northern Ireland.

“There are real concerns about the prevalence of the Indian variant in Britain. It’s now the dominant variant of Britain. Over 50% of cases appear to be this B.1617 variant. That’s something we’re concerned about.

“For that reason, we’re not in the position to restore the Common Travel Area just yet.”

“The difficulty we have is that there are still a lot of people in Ireland, not vaccinated. And that’s why we’re going to be relatively cautious with international travel.

Every week we delay, 300,000 more people [in Ireland] are either vaccinated or fully vaccinated. So just waiting a month – that’s 1.2 million more vaccines, and I think people understand the sense behind that.

Ireland’s vaccination

The Government had set a target that by the end of June, 82% of adults would be offered a Covid-19 vaccine. But the Government has said that supply issues with AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson have delayed their timelines, and told the Dáil yesterday that that target would “likely” be missed.

“We would still expect to be in the mid-70s in terms of the percentage of people who received one or both vaccines by the end of June,” Varadkar said. “And we’ll be able to make that up at some point in July.”

We now expect that by the end of July, 2.5 million people will be fully vaccinated, and that’s more than 60% of the adult population.

Only about 2% of new cases of Covid-19 are among people aged over 65, and less than 2% of new cases are healthcare workers, Varadkar said, as an indication of how effective the vaccines are.

When asked about whether he was concerned about a fourth wave, Varadkar said it was a question of how big the wave would be, as the vaccines are proving very effective. 

With reporting from Christina Finn.

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