Allowing unvaccinated under 18s inside pubs and restaurants “will not be the make or break issue” which causes a surge in Covid-19 numbers Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.
Mr Martin was speaking on Friday after more than 1,100 new cases of the disease were confirmed, with hospitals preparing for a surge in admissions as the Delta variant fuels a faster-than-expected spread.
Chief medical officer (CMO) Tony Holohan on Thursday reiterated his position that people who are unvaccinated, including children, "should continue to avoid high-risk, uncontrolled indoor settings. That includes indoor hospitality".
Mr Martin said the Government had adhered to the “broad message” from public health officials, and had been “attacked” in the Dáil for restricting indoor dining to the vaccinated.
“The Delta variant is here there will be an increase in case numbers. We are watching very carefully the impact on hospitalisation and on ICUs and I am in regular contact with the public health authorities, the CMO and also with the HSE.”
Indoor hospitality would “be predominantly for the vaccinated” he said but “there will be some situations where families with children” chose to eat indoors.
“In my view it’s not going to be the make or break issue. Public health advice is there and I think people have to exercise their judgement in that regard. I have said from the commencement of this summer that the more outdoors the better”.
The Government had been “attacked” in the Dáil for the “broad principle” of only allowing vaccinated people to dine indoors, he said.
“I think the Government has to look at everything in the balance in terms of society and life. Overwhelmingly I think Government has taken a cautious approach and I don’t think we can be accused of not taking a cautious approach.”
Asked about plans for close contacts of those who had contracted Covid-19 to use self-administered antigen testing, when Dr Holohan had raised concerns about its effectiveness, Mr Martin said he was “conscious that some people are trying to engineer some kind of dispute,” between the Government and Nphet “where that’s not the case at all” he said.
“We are working together and collectively against the deadly virus. In respect of antigen testing it is but a further tool.”
Mr Martin was speaking at an event to mark the completion of 32 social homes for Tuath Housing at Mount Eagle Square in Sandyford.
The apartments and houses are currently being allocated to people from the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council housing waiting list. The development, built by Belgrove Homes is a mix of one, two and three-bed homes and has been funded by the Housing Finance Agency and a loan from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.
Tuath in 2020 provided its largest number of homes to date with 1095 new homes bringing the total stock it manages to more than 7,300.