Government reopening decisions next week will be ‘very significant’, Ministers say

Aviation, indoor hospitality and live events in line for reopenings during June and July

 SImon Harris  said the EU digital green certificate would form a very big part of the timely return of the aviation sector,  Photograph Nick Bradshaw

SImon Harris said the EU digital green certificate would form a very big part of the timely return of the aviation sector, Photograph Nick Bradshaw


Government Ministers have said the Cabinet meeting next Friday that will decide a timetable for reopening key sectors of the economy will be “very significant” as it will restore society to close to where it was pre-Covid-19.

Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath and Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris have both alluded to the three sectors most affected by lockdown, aviation; indoor hospitality; and sport and live cultural events, being in line for timely reopenings during June and July.

Other Government sources have said the “mood music” around aviation, in particular, has improved substantially in recent weeks. The confidence has been bolstered primarily by the success of the national vaccination programme in meeting its targets. It is now likely that 1 million vaccine doses will be administered in May alone, with growing confidence within Government that 82 per cent of eligible adults will have been offered at least one dose of a vaccine by the end of June.

While the Government could delay until mid-August to implement the digital travel certificate, the indications given by several Government sources on Sunday were it was veering towards seeking if possible the middle of July.

The growing confidence was confirmed by Mr Harris on Sunday: “Two weeks ago people were talking about closing the border and mandatory hotel quarantine. Now we are talking about when we can get back in the skies again. I suppose that is a sign of the success of our vaccine programme,” he told RTÉ’s the Week in Politics programme.

Mr Harris said Friday’s meeting would be “very significant as it would address reopening” for what he described as the “three trickiest sectors.”

He said the Government would give clarity on when people could return to indoor dining and entertainment in restaurants in pub and also said his colleague, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin was working on a detailed programme that would allow live events to be piloted, in a similar vein to what has been done with live outdoor gigs in Liverpool earlier this month.

Green certificate

Mr Harris said the EU digital green certificate (to allow passengers who are immune, vaccinated or with clear tests to travel) would form a very big part of the timely return of the aviation sector. Stressing the importance of air connectivity to Ireland, not just for tourism but also for business, he said it was very “very significant that there is political agreement around the green certificate”, which will be formally ratified this week.

Mr McGrath said the Government had provided extensive supports to airports and airlines but its priority was to “get planes back in the sky. We are a country that depends on international connectivity”.

Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week, he said a lot of work has been done on the digital certificate but added “some domestic decisions need to be made about the application of that in an Irish context”.

He said the Government wanted to implement it as quickly as possible but would be also taking account of public health advice.

He said no decisions had been taken in relation to the date for reopening.

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