Young ‘jettisoned’ in ‘bananas’ plan for vaccinated-only indoor dining, Kelly says

Labour leader says young are shocked by Government which is ‘amateur hour’

Plans to allow indoor dining and drinking  only for people who are fully vaccinated “absolutely shocking”, Alan Kelly says. Photograph: iStock

Plans to allow indoor dining and drinking only for people who are fully vaccinated “absolutely shocking”, Alan Kelly says. Photograph: iStock

 

Labour leader Alan Kelly has described as “absolutely bananas”, discriminatory, unenforceable and “shocking” plans to allow indoor dining only for people who are fully vaccinated.

Mr Kelly said “it is amateur hour”. In an angry outburst during leaders’ questions in the Dáil he claimed the Government is “jettisoning” young people following the agreement by Cabinet to postpone the reopening of indoor dining until there is a workable plan for how customers can prove they have been vaccinated.

The plan is to be drawn up by July 19th but a decision has yet to be made on when indoor services can reopen. The plan for them to reopen on July 5th has been abandoned following advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan told Mr Kelly it was incorrect to say it had been decided. He said the Government wants to sit down with the stakeholders including businesses, unions and the Opposition and look at options that “provide better protection”.He stressed “there is no discrimination” in the Government’s intention behind the measure.

Mr Ryan said measures in place to help younger people, included speedily extending vaccine supply and availability to younger age cohorts. These provisions marked the the best medium to long-term effort to conquer the virus as the vaccination campaign continued.

Mr Kelly also protested that Taoiseach Micheal Martin was not in the Dail to answer questions just minutes after he unveiled the Government’s latest proposals.

But the Minister told him that Mr Martin was addressing the UN Security Council on cyberattacks in the wake of the attack on HSE systems last month.

Hitting out at the Government’s plans the Labour leader claimed the proposal to allow only the fully vaccinated to dine indoors “ is breaking social cohesion”.

“What you’re saying to young people is ‘we’re all in this together except when it gets to a stage where those of us who are being vaccinated want to get out and enjoy ourselves. Oh and by the way, we also want you to continue working to serve us in the bars and restaurants and pubs, because we needed to do something by accident.’”

He could get a meal in a pub or restaurant but pointing to his younger colleague Duncan Smith, Mr Kelly said “I have to leave him outside the door.”

“I think you’re going to learn a big political lesson” he warned,adding that he had never before seen the reaction he had got from young people.

“They are shocked that the Government has decided now to jettison them.”

The Government should instead move to increase vaccination and that in two weeks’ times 50 per cent of adults would be double vaccinated and 70 per cent would have their first shot.

He said if they used the additional vaccines following the move to reduce the AstraZeneca age use “we can get down to about 55 per cent fully vaccinated and 75 per cent half vaccinated”. That would give time to allow the position to be reassessed.

“You’re going to have to rescind that. It’s not practical, it’s discriminatory and it’s unenforceable,” Mr Kelly said.

Mr Ryan reminded the Labour leader that his party had always been absolutely clear about the need to follow public health advice. “That is what the Government is doing,” Mr Ryan added.

He said he did not himself believe there would be a fourth wave and that they have learned from last summer. He said they would have more done by July 19th “and that’s of critical importance”.

Independent TD Mattie McGrath accused the Government of taking “another wrecking ball” to the economy where pubs and restaurants were “holding on by their fingernails” and 200,000 jobs are now on the line.

Calling for the Government to dispense with Nphet Mr McGrath claimed its advice is “completely bonkers”. Nphet advice is “so disproportionate” and the figures for potential cases reminded him “of the figures tossed around the night before the bank guarantee”.

But rejecting the claims Mr Ryan said Nphet’s modelling showed a high risk of hospitals coming under pressure and large numbers requiring ICU care.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly agreed with Mr Kelly and said there were serious implications in “creating a division amongst our people who helped us through the pandemic”. She warned that “it’s totally unacceptable to proceed down that divisive road”.