One week left before summer recess for Government to pass indoor hospitality law

Proposal on using travel certs for indoor dining going to Cabinet on Tuesday

The Dáil and Seanad have a week to pass the law before the current date for the summer recess. File photograph: iStock

The Dáil and Seanad have a week to pass the law before the current date for the summer recess. File photograph: iStock

 

The Government will be in a race against time before the Oireachtas rises next week to push through a new law that will allow the return of indoor hospitality.

A meeting between the hospitality sector and Government officials on Thursday was told that primary legislation would be required to allow vaccinated people – and those who have recovered from Covid-19 – to access indoor dining and drinking.

While officials told the meeting they were confident they could draft the legislation in time, the Dáil and Seanad are scheduled to break for the Summer recess next Thursday – giving a week for the legislation to be drafted and pass all stages of the Oireachtas.

The Dáil and Seanad may be recalled to facilitate the legislation.

A Government spokesman said after the meeting that discussions focused on “operationalising Nphet [National Public Health Emergency Team] advice, including necessary legal underpinning and updating of operational guidelines, with a view to ensuring the safety of workers and customers in the sector.

“The Government is to consider the possible options discussed in the coming days.”

The talks explored how the EU Digital Covid Certificates, to be issued from Monday via email and post, can be used to prove fully vaccinated and recovery status.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that the Government is on target for having a plan ready on how to reopen indoor hospitality before July 19th but did not indicate when it will actually resume.

He said short legislation followed by regulations to allow for the reopening in line with public health advice will be fine tuned over the weekend with a view to next Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting considering proposals for reopening.

The hospitality sector has been concerned that Nphet was not involved in the talks amid claims the advisory body would ultimately decide on the reopening plans.

Mr Martin said Nphet will “not necessarily” be consulted again on the matter.

He said the Government and hospitality sectors are aware of Nphet’s advice on the issue .

He said Nphet will be aware of the proposals but “we won’t be consulting directly because we have the advice” and the reopening plans will reflect it.

Mr Martin was asked if there was a role for antigen testing in the reopening of indoor hospitality.

He said: “It may not have an immediate role in terms of the reopening of hospitality and indoor dining.

“But it may have a role, over time, and those are the kind of policy options that we will be providing for in our legislation.”

Mr Martin was asked about the legality of discriminating against people who aren’t vaccinated.

He said: “The issue for us is it’s about protecting people. It’s not about discriminating I think that’s very unfortunate sort of perspective that’s been put on it by people over the last week or so.”

While representative organisations for hospitality earlier said the solutions being worked on were not perfect, it is understood there is general agreement that the certificate will be issued only to those who are vaccinated, or have acquired immunity.

Six reopening scenarios will be presented to Cabinet for a final decision next Tuesday. However, most of the discussions focused on devising a system that allows only vaccinated people and those recovered from Covid indoors.

The new system will be introduced on a phased basis with guidelines for adequate ventilation, including the use of CO2 monitors, and work-safety protocols.

It is understood that a smartphone app based on a working model in the Netherlands will be used. It will be available for free and contain a QR code that will identify the person and show they are vaccinated or immune. The information will be easily accessible by those controlling the premises.

It is also understood that the system will be monitored and regulated by environmental health officers, the Health and Safety Authority, An Garda Síochána, and Fáilte Ireland.

Testing

The Restaurants Association of Ireland said it was still pushing for July 19th as the date to restart indoor dining.

It said the use of Antigen and PCR testing would continue to be investigated over the weeks ahead despite not being used initially.

“The final details are to be worked on over the weekend, which will focus on families, those under 18 who are accompanied by adults and dining indoors under public health advice,” said its chief executive Adrian Cummins.

Padraig Cribben, chief executive of the Vintners Federation of Ireland said: “Our primary goal is to get our members reopened in a safe manner both for publicans, their staff and customers.

“If a so-called vaccine pass is what’s required then the onus is now on the Government to get the legislation passed next week before the Oireachtas takes its summer break.

“There remains legal issues to be resolved but we remain insistent that pubs need to reopen on July 19th. If the political will is there to make it happen then it will happen.”