Q&A: What are the latest plans for the easing of Covid-19 restrictions this summer?

Taoiseach will address nation on changes for travel, hospitality and sport in coming months

The Cabinet will meet on Friday to agree another phase of the easing of Covid-19 restrictions over the summer months. Ahead of that the Cabinet coronavirus subcommittee met on Thursday to finetune the proposals. The State’s national public health team will be giving their advice, too. A meeting of the three Coalition party leaders looks likely on Friday morning. Later in the day Taoiseach Micheál Martin will outline changes in the areas of aviation and international travel, hospitality and sport in an address. Here is what we know so far.

Q: There has been a lot of talk in relation to the digital green cert and travelling around Europe, but what is the plan here?

A: It is likely there will be a few elements to the Taoiseach's address to the nation on Friday and the first will be in relation to the introduction of EU Covid-19 certificates, otherwise known as the EU digital green certificate, to allow greater movement within the bloc.

The quickly advancing vaccination programmes in Ireland, the US, the EU and Britain give the Government good room for manoeuvre in easing travel restrictions for these states.

The green cert is likely to be ready to go at a European level from the start of July. It looks as though the Government will seek to operationalise this by the 19th of the month, with the date understood to have been agreed by Ministers on Thursday evening. In the meantime, France, Belgium and Luxembourg are set to be taken off the list of countries in relation to which mandatory hotel quarantine is required.


Then there is the question of allowing non-essential travel to the UK and US. Minister for Arts Catherine Martin suggested earlier this week that this could be a little further out than European travel. There had been suggestions of a travel bubble between Ireland and Britain, but given ongoing concerns in relation to the so-called Indian Covid-19 variant's prevalence in the UK, the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) may have something to say about this.

Separately, the Taoiseach and Tánaiste have both come under pressure from their respective parliamentary parties to ensure that Friday’s announcement includes some kind of support for the aviation sector, which has suffered significant financial losses in the pandemic, although both have previously pointed to the existing level of support via State pandemic schemes.

Q: What can we expect on hospitality and sport?

A: Once again, there will be a few different elements to this part of the announcement.

In terms of restaurants and pubs, the Taoiseach will finally give a date for the planned resumption of indoor hospitality. From July 5th, indoor services in restaurants and bars will be allowed to reopen.

Mr Martin will also announce a series of pilot live concerts, gigs and matches across June and July. These will be of varying sizes and across different genres. Stadiums with a capacity of 5,000 or more will be allowed to host attendances of 200 but there will also be test events which are expected to involve larger crowds.

The use of antigen testing as part of these test events is considered likely.

The Tánaiste has also suggested that smaller, community type events, with up to 200 people in attendance, will be permitted in appropriate venues.

Nphet is also understood to have recommended that up to 5,000 spectators can attend outdoor events in large stadiums like Croke Park from August 2nd, while smaller outdoor venues would have a limit of 500 people.

Indoor events in larger venues could have a capacity of 200 from August 2nd, while smaller indoor venues would be limited to 100 people, it is understood.

Meanwhile, cinemas are set to reopen on June 7th.

Q: Will there be a vaccination bonus?

A: The last time the Government announced an easing of restrictions, there was also a significant bonus included for those who have been vaccinated. This included allowing a vaccinated household meet indoors with one other vaccinated household. Many of those planning weddings, for example, have recently questioned whether they can bolster their invite list with vaccinated guests. It's not yet clear what moves the Government will make on this. For the moment the rule is that up to 50 people are permitted to attend religious services, which include weddings and funerals as well as Masses. Indoor wedding parties are currently capped at six guests, with a maximum of 15 guests allowed at outdoor parties. There will be many people anxious to see those numbers increased significantly.

Q: Will we be told what to expect in relation to the vaccination campaign over the summer?

A: Yes. It emerged in the Dáil on Thursday morning that the State will likely miss its target for offering a first Covid-19 vaccine dose to 82 per cent of adults here because of a looming shortfall in deliveries of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. It is understood the Government will provide revised vaccination targets as part of its announcements on Friday.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times