Indoor dining plan: Time limits unlikely but stricter social distancing for families with children

Two-metre table distance to apply if children present and Covid certs to be shown

Indoor dining will resume for the fully vaccinated next week without time limits

Indoor dining will resume for the fully vaccinated next week without time limits

 

Indoor dining will resume for the fully vaccinated next week without time limits, but with stricter rules for social distancing when unvaccinated children are present, under plans to be considered by Government on Wednesday.

Under the plans, a previous time limit of 105 minutes for tables within one metre of each other will be scrapped – but an 11.30pm closing time will remain, to be reviewed at a later date.

Digital and paper certs will be accepted, while an app will be rolled out for businesses to check customers’ vaccination status on entry. Cabinet sources believe they will give approval for indoor hospitality to reopen as early as Monday, July 26th.

When children are present, a two-metre distance must be in place between tables, while a “significant update” is expected on ventilation guidelines, including the use of air flow, extraction systems and of CO2 monitors.

A requirement for photo ID is also being considered.

Officials are working out how enforcement will operate, with environmental health officers carrying out checks.

Helpline delays

Meanwhile, there was ongoing recrimination on Tuesday over significant backlogs for the State’s helpline for the Digital Covid Certificate (DCC), with the Department of Health admitting many people were waiting at least 90 minutes for a response.

With users protesting about significant waiting times, sometimes in excess of three hours, the department appealed to the public to only ring with urgent queries.

It said it “handled” more than 1,000 calls as of 2pm on Tuesday but did not provide a breakdown of how many calls went unanswered. More than two million Covid certs have been issued, but about 130,000 people are eligible to claim a cert showing they have recovered from an infection – which can only be done through the helpline.

Some 55 agents were taking calls on Tuesday and the department said 90 would be in place by the end of the first week of operation. A second helpline number has been set up to help reduce delays.

This comes as the Government simultaneously confronts the long-term implications of spending on Covid-era supports, and faces the threat of a fourth wave driven by the more contagious Delta variant.

Pandemic expenditure

It is understood Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath will tell the Cabinet that spending since the onset of the pandemic will top €30 billion by the end of the year, and stress the importance of winding down temporary expenditures as the economy reopens. Mr McGrath will also signal his intention to publish a number of spending review papers.

Some 1,110 cases of Covid-19 were reported on Tuesday evening and indicators of the level of disease in the community remain high, with some contact tracing centres reporting more than one in four tests as positive for Covid-19. Both Buncrana in Co Donegal and Tallaght in Dublin were in excess of this figure, while the national positivity rate was in the region of 10.5 per cent.

Niamh O’Beirne, the HSE’s head of testing and tracing, said this was a level similar to that seen in December before the damaging third wave.

Elsewhere, frontline healthcare workers in areas deemed high-risk such as emergency departments, intensive care units, and transplant and cancer facilities who decline to be vaccinated against Covid-19 can be reassigned temporarily under updated HSE guidelines.

In a letter to senior HSE hospital and community managers on Tuesday, chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said the new guidelines would allow for localised health and safety risk assessments to be conducted for staff in high-risk areas in order to determine their risk status.