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Covid-19: Here's when to expect next week's summer re-opening decisions

Cabinet will meet on Friday this week.

Image: PA

THE GOVERNMENT WILL next week give a detailed and “comprehensive” statement on plans for travel, aviation, entertainment, sport and mandatory hotel quarantine as part of the next phase of reopening for June and July.

Micheál Martin told his parliamentary party meeting this week that there is a necessity to restore travel and aviation, adding that substantive work on the evaluation of the mandatory hotel quarantine system is underway.

A motion will come before the Oireachtas shortly on the mandatory hotel quarantine system – whether to extend it and for how long.

The Taoiseach will attend the a Special Meeting of the EU Council next week, and will be in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday. 

Due to the Taoiseach being out of the country, Tuesday’s usual Cabinet meeting will be pushed to Friday, where Cabinet will sign off on a range of reopening plans. 

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) will meet on Thursday to put together their advice, before giving it to government.

Speaking to reporters yesterday evening, the Taoiseach said next week’s announcement will be “comprehensive”. 

“Over the next number of days we will be examining all of this. The sequence will be there will will be a NPHET meeting, my understanding is Thursday and the Covid Cabinet Committee after that.

Cabinet the following say will deal with any decisions we have to take in respect a lot of the issues that I have outlined, both from a travel perspective and different sectors of society, in terms of sport and entertainment. We did say we were working on proposals to trial some events. So, we will make a comprehensive announcement in relation to all of that next week. 

Green Cert

The European Parliament reached a deal this week paving the way for a Green Certificate that will help open up travel in Europe for the key summer season. 

The Green Certificate will be proof that a person has received a vaccine, received a negative test result or recovered from Covid-19 and has natural immunity.

The certificate will be valid if a person can show a negative PCR test that was taken less than 72 hours prior; if a person has a negative rapid test that is less than 24 hours old; or if a person tested positive for specific antibodies within the last 6 months.

Each member state has autonomy of deciding which test is required upon entry into their country.

The issue will be discussed at the EU Special Council meeting next week, however some of government circles have highlighted the case of Denmark, which has opted for antigen testing to be allowed prior to entry. 

There is a split in opinion on rapid testing among some public health experts, however,  the chief scientific advisor to the government, Professor Mark Ferguson’s report on rapid testing has been fully accepted by the government.

While those in government note the views of some of the public health professionals as regards PCR testing, the issue of cost of these tests is also understood to being weighed up, particularly in light of the move to jump-start tourism. 

The EU Green Certificate provides a framework to get travel back, said the Taoiseach this week, who added that a plan for travel and the aviation sector to be ready by the end of the month. 

“We are in a different space with vaccination and as a small open economy aviation is really important.

“We must ensure connectivity for tourism, the economy and future growth. The government is committed to regional connectivity and is committed to Shannon airport.

“There will need to be an effective rebooting of aviation and we will engage with the airlines and airports. This is crucial to tourism and economic growth of all regions in the country,” he said. 

Next week, dates at which we can travel abroad should be laid out, with expectations that holidays abroad could be a possibility in July, with travel to the UK perhaps in June.

The announcement comes ahead of hotels and B&Bs reopening their doors on 2 June, with outdoor service for restaurants and pubs to resume on 7 June.

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The hospitality sector should also get more details this week about the possibility of indoor dining being permitted in July.

Live events

Tourism Minister Catherine Martin will also detail the progress on reopening the entertainment industry, and detail the plans that are being put in place to trial mass gathering events, with crowds, both indoors and outdoors

Much like what happened in Barcelona, where thousands attended a concert, her department has been putting in place plans for similar events. 

Sports events, as well as music and other performances are in the works, with trial events set for venues all around he country, not just in in Dublin.

The Tourism Minister also confirmed yesterday that grants previously made available for businesses to improve their facilities to cater for outdoor dining are also to be made available for pubs who do not serve food but want to improve drinking spaces outdoors. 

The Taoiseach said that he welcomed this move, adding: 

“On 2nd June hotels and B&Bs and guesthouses will be back up and running, on the 7th June outdoor dining and drinking, these are positive, progressive moves.”

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy

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