Indoor service in pubs and restaurants is set to resume as soon as July 19th, despite Covid-19 cases rising to their highest level since April.
Proposals to allow for this easing of restrictions will go to Cabinet on Tuesday, and legislation will have to pass through the Oireachtas and be signed by the President before the change can be made.
While a date for the resumption of indoor service in the sector has not yet been set, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said on Friday it would happen by July 26th “at the latest”.
The reopening of indoor services was postponed amid concern over the Delta variant of Covid-19 and the advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), which said it should not happen until a system of proving customers had been vaccinated was put in place.
It is expected the EU Digital Covid Certificate for international travel will be adapted to allow it to be used as proof of vaccination status or recent infection for people accessing domestic services.
“The plan is to bring the proposal to Cabinet on Tuesday that will enable us to open indoor hospitality in line with Nphet guidance,” Mr Varadkar said.
“That obviously has to go through the Dáil, it has to get through the Seanad.
“We have to ask the President to sign it and we have to do some regulations too so it’s not that there’s a particular date. We just need to work out when we can do it from.”
He added that it will “probably” be some date between July 19th and 26th.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin cautioned that “nothing has been set in stone in terms of dates yet” as Cabinet would make the decision on Tuesday.
Nphet reported 631 cases on Friday, the highest daily number since late April. The number of Covid patients in hospital and the number in ICU both fell. Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan described the case figure as a “cause for concern”, saying it showed the disease was “prevalent in our communities again”.
He urged people who were not yet vaccinated to “hold firm” to public health advice until they received their doses.
A rise to 2,000 cases a day would result in 40 hospital admissions a day and up to 400 people in hospital with Covid-19, according to Nphet’s Prof Philip Nolan.
Due to widespread vaccination, about 20 people required hospital admission out of every 1,000 cases, he said; before, 1,000 cases resulted in 30-50 admissions.
The latest surge is being driven by the rise in cases involving the Delta variant, which now accounts for 71 per cent of all cases reported in the Republic.
New figures show a doubling of sequenced Delta variant cases in the space of a week, to a total of 472.
World Health Organisation head of emergencies Dr Mike Ryan said the worst of the pandemic was over for Ireland and some other European countries but warned that reopening too quickly could affect those still susceptible to severe infection.
The European Medicines Agency said on Friday there was a possible link between very rare heart inflammation and Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, but stressed their benefits outweighed any risks.
Heart conditions myocarditis and pericarditis must now be listed as possible side effects of the two mRNA vaccines, it said.
Reports of the condition mainly occurred within 14 days of the second dose and in younger adult men.