Covid: July set to see spectators in trial return to sports events, easing of indoor dining rules

Groups of up to six being permitted for indoor dining in July, parliamentary party meetings told

A crowded Croke Park in July - 2019 -  GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final. Photograph: INPHO/James Crombie

A crowded Croke Park in July - 2019 - GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final. Photograph: INPHO/James Crombie

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Spectators are set to return to sporting events on a trial basis in July, alongside groups of up to six being permitted for indoor dining during the same month, under plans being considered by the Government.

The relaxation of restrictions was outlined by the Taoiseach and Tánaiste at Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael parliamentary party meetings on Wednesday night. Without specifying crowd sizes, Micheál Martin told Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators that plans to trial spectators at outdoor sports events in July was informed by the experience of the EU and the UK.

He also flagged that Ireland would be part of EU travel plans, with the intention to restore connectivity as soon as it is safe to do so.

Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar told his parliamentary party that indoor dining could return in July with six people to a table, contact details taken and allowances made for the size of venues. He said a decision would be taken next month.

It comes as the Government prepares to discuss extensions and adjustments to key business and wage supports. The Cabinet subcommittee on economic recovery, chaired by the Tánaiste, will on Thursday meet to discuss the future of multibillion-euro subsidies due to expire this summer.

The National Economic Recovery Plan will also be on the agenda. Additional supports for severely impacted business sectors will also be considered as part of the discussions, which are preliminary.

No ‘cliff-edge’

Sources emphasised that there would be no “cliff edge” to the schemes, and the intention is that they will stay in place to allow businesses to recover, especially those which are closed or restricted, and to allow employment to recover.

However, senior sources also said the programmes could not stay in place indefinitely, especially as firms reopen fully under a hoped-for permanent easing of Covid restrictions.

Discussions are expected to focus on plans for the second half of the year for supports such as the commercial rates waiver, the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) and the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS).

However, any restructuring of the schemes would have to be weighed against uncertainty over the wider epidemiological situation, sources said.

Elsewhere, the Government continues to consider a new plan to offer the AstraZeneca and Johnson &Johnson vaccines to those under 50.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said advice on the use of the vaccines indicated they could be used in this way. Discussions on the plan are underway, and he said he expects to have proposals to be considered by Government this week.

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