Indoor hospitality to reopen on July 26th, says Varadkar

Taoiseach says people should exercise their own judgement on bringing children to restaurants

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said people will ‘exercise their own judgement’ on whether or not they should bring their children to eat indoors in restaurants once Covid-19 restrictions on this are eased. Photograph: iStock

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said people will ‘exercise their own judgement’ on whether or not they should bring their children to eat indoors in restaurants once Covid-19 restrictions on this are eased. Photograph: iStock

 

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said Monday July 26th is now the target date to open up indoor hospitality.

Mr Varadkar anticipated it would be Monday week before the legislation was cleared through the Houses of the Oireachtas and signed into law. President Michael D Higgins will need time to scrutinise the legislation.

Indoor services in restaurants and pubs will resume for people who have been vaccinated or have recently recovered from Covid-19. Children under 18 in a “family bubble” will be allowed dine inside despite not being vaccinated.

Mr Varadkar said rising case numbers will not derail plans to open indoor hospitality. The Government had not anticipated Covid-19 cases getting to almost a thousand a day, but he believed there was still reasons for optimism, he said.

Scotland had a similar Delta wave which peaked at 3,500 a day and has now fallen back to 2,000 a day.

Scotland, with a similar population to the Republic, experienced an increase in hospital numbers to between 500 and 600 in hospital with between 50 and 60 in ICUs.

It would equate to 5 per cent of hospital capacity and 15 per cent of ICU capacity in the State.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Only one person of the 200 who has gone through the ICU recently has been fully vaccinated, he said.

“There is certainly no reason to catastrophise. The pandemic is not over. 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.”

Mr Varadkar said the unvaccinated are most at risk and are the “new vulnerable”.

“You are very much at risk over the next couple of weeks. Take every precaution as if it was March 2020 all over again,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said many countries are now embracing the Irish model of only allowing those who are fully vaccinated to dine indoors. He predicted we will need another winter before we can safely say that the pandemic is behind us.

Judgement

Earlier, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said people should “exercise their own judgement” when decided whether to bring their children to eat indoors in restaurants.

His remarks come after the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said it is safer not to bring children to restaurants for indoor dining “even though these kinds of things might be possible.”

Dr Holohan said: “That would be the responsible public health advice” and pointed out that dining outdoors is possible.

On Thursday Mr Martin was asked about Dr Holohan’s comments and whether parents should leave their children at home.

He said: “My view on that is the Government made a decision. People can bring their children in. One has to have a balance here in terms of how people operate and how people live their lives.”

Mr Martin said the CMO offers public health advice but the Government has broader issues to consider.

He added: “I think the key point really is there is a need for personal responsibility. We need to trust people as well.

“And I think people have learned themselves throughout the journey of this pandemic how it can impact and how deadly it can be.”

The Taoiseach said in many instances there won’t be any difficulty for children accompanying parents indoors for a meal in a controlled environment.

Meanwhile public health expert Prof Anthony Staines said children could not safely dine indoors in restaurants with their parents at current Covid-19 incidence rates.

Prof Staines told Newstalk radio that if case numbers stay high then it would not be safe for children to dine indoors with their parents.

“If there were 10 cases of Covid in the country per day, it would be irrelevant, more or less. But there’s not. The numbers are expected to rise,” he said.

Delta concerns

The Taoiseach also said he was concerned about the highly transmissible Delta variant.

Mr Martin said cases and hospitalisations are rising “so we need to be very vigilant and people need to take the advice of the Chief Medical Officer in respect of this seriously.”

He added: “we need to protect what we’ve reopened and that’s a key agenda for us and the next six weeks to two months will be challenging because of the nature of the Delta variant”.

“We will work on ventilation as well over the next while, particularly in terms of schools and to make sure we’re ahead of that and to anticipate any further challenges down the line.

“We’re in a different phase of the pandemic,” Mr Martin said.

Mr Martin said he could not confirm when the deal to buy one million vaccine doses from Romania will be finalised.

It was revealed at the start of the month that a deal was agreed in principle for Ireland to buy 700,000 Pfizer and 300,000 Moderna vaccines from after it became apparent there was going to be a low take up by Romanians of the vaccines.

The Irish Mail on Sunday reported at the weekend that the deal is not yet finalised with issues under discussion including the expiration dates of available vaccines.

Mr Martin said discussions between the health departments in Ireland and Romania were continuing but said he remained hopeful the purchase will go ahead.

“As I said at the time there was a lot of logistical issues had to be worked out.”