Indoor hospitality will not resume until July 26th, Varadkar says

Tánaiste’s announcement dashes sector hopes of back to business at an earlier date

Minister for Employment Leo Varadkar: ‘We are entering a new phase with the vaccines and the variants. It is a virus that has changed and is more infectious than ever before.’ Photograph: Maxwells/PA

Minister for Employment Leo Varadkar: ‘We are entering a new phase with the vaccines and the variants. It is a virus that has changed and is more infectious than ever before.’ Photograph: Maxwells/PA

 

Bars and restaurants will not be able to serve fully vaccinated customers indoors until Monday, July 26th, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said, dashing industry hopes that they could be back in business days earlier.

Legislation to clear the way for the reopening will not have passed all stages in the Houses of the Oireachtas until Friday and President Michael D Higgins will need time to study the texts, he said.

However, Mr Varadkar said rising case numbers would not derail plans to open indoor hospitality, even though Ministers had not anticipated that Covid-19 cases would reach the 1,000 cases-a-day threshold so quickly.

Saying he believed there were still reasons for optimism, he said Scotland had seen a similar wave of Covid-19 Delta cases, peaking at 3,500 a day but this had now fallen back to 2,000 a day.

If replicated here, such a wave would absorb 5 per cent of all hospital beds and 15 per cent of ICU beds: “If that is the course we are following, that is manageable. It is not a good place to be in, but it is manageable, but we can’t assume that.

Case surge

“We will see a surge in cases. There will be a significant increase in hospitalisations and, sadly, there will be deaths, but the question is will it overwhelm our health system.

“The evidence from Israel and Scotland is that will not be the case,” he said, adding that just one of the 200 Covid-19 patients who had spent time in ICU recently had been fully vaccinated.

“There is certainly no reason to catastrophise. The pandemic is not over,” Mr Varadkar told reporters, but the unvaccinated are now the “new vulnerable” because of the Delta variant.

“We are entering a new phase with the vaccines and the variants. It is a virus that has changed and is more infectious than ever before,” the Tánaiste and Fine Gael leader declared.

In a message to those who have not been offered or taken up offers of vaccinations, he said: “You are very much at risk over the next couple of weeks. Take every precaution as if it was March 2020 all over again.”

Another winter

Many countries are now embracing the Irish model of only allowing fully vaccinated people to dine indoors, he said, adding that another winter will pass before it can be safely said the pandemic has passed.

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar and Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin launched a new support scheme to help event companies cope with fixed-costs bills.

Grants of up to €50,000 will be available from the €11.5 million Events Sector Covid Support Scheme (ESCSS) for events firms, which have been largely forced to close because of Covid-19 public health restrictions.

“The events industry was one of the first sectors to close and unfortunately will be one of the last to reopen,” said Ms Martin, adding that such businesses employ thousands and are “the lifeblood for many services and suppliers”.

Open for applications from August 4th, the scheme will be run by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media. To qualify, firms must not have been eligible for the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS).