Moves by the Government to allow unvaccinated children dine indoors with their fully vaccinated parents have been welcomed as a workable solution that will allow family units dine together in restaurants and pubs over the remaining weeks of the summer.
Under the plan, which has yet to be given the green light by public health officials, all children will be able to go inside bars and restaurants as long as they are with vaccinated adults.
The proposed changes come as the Department of Health reported 581 new cases of Covid-19. The number of patients being treated in hospital is 52, with 16 in ICU.
Proposals aimed at facilitating the full reopening of restaurants and pubs will be presented to Cabinet on Tuesday.
The new plans will largely mirror the Digital Covid Certificate being introduced on July 19th to allow for the reopening of international travel within the European Union. That means people who have fully recovered from Covid-19 will also be allowed access to restaurants and pubs.
The chief executive of the Restaurant Association of Ireland, Adrian Cummins, said he expected the regulations on time limits of 105 minutes, which are currently in force for indoor dining in hotels, to be replicated across the wider hospitality sector.
The Government is hoping to have an app in place in time for the reopening to allow restaurants and bars read the QR codes on the digital Covid cert which will be issued to more than 2 million people starting next Monday.
Mr Cummins said that “from an industry expensive we are pressing for July 19th to be allowed to reopen. If it lands on July 22nd or 23rd then it will be a weekend when restaurants are at their busiest and if it is pushed back to July 26th we will miss a crucial summer weekend. This should be activated on a Wednesday to allow a couple of days before the first weekend.”
Mr Cummins said he had been impressed by the behind the scenes work on a new system that had already been done by officials working across various Government departments and he said that while it was “no way perfect” it would at least allow businesses to reopen.
“If we are going to live with Covid, then by following this plan will mean we are working within Nphet [National Public Health Emergency Team] recommendations and can at least get the doors open. By the time we get to the weekend after the 19th there will be 2.6 million people vaccinated.”
He expressed confidence that restaurants and pubs would be able to manage any new system that is to be implemented. “We have to implement ID systems for underage drinking and there are lots of regulations we have to abide by but we do want to make sure we have the protection of the State when it comes to these regulations.”
Before the hospitality sector can reopen under the new rules, legislation will also need to be introduced and with the Oireachtas term set to end next week, it would have to be fast tracked through the Dáil and Seanad.
It is expected that it will allow for inspections of the sector to ensure the system is being implemented and it will offer protections to business owners who deny people access to their restaurants seek to enter without a certificate.
The Seanad will have to sit late next Friday night to pass the Bill which is an amendment to the 1947 Public Health Act.