Varadkar ‘increasingly confident’ indoor and outdoor dining possible this summer

If hairdressers reopen in May it will be for everyone, vaccinated and not, Tánaiste says

Customers dine in an outdoor seating area of a restaurant in Covent Garden in London. Photograph: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Customers dine in an outdoor seating area of a restaurant in Covent Garden in London. Photograph: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

 

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said he is “increasingly confident” that indoor dining in restaurants will be possible this summer as Covid-19 restrictions are eased.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, he said it is not the intention that personal services like hairdressers and barbers will only be open to people who are fully vaccinated. If they get the go ahead to reopen at some point in May they “will be open for everyone whether they’re vaccinated or not”.

Mr Varadkar said the Cabinet will consider in the last week of April, what easing of restrictions are possible next month.

He said that the status of the vaccine rollout, Covid-19 case numbers and the situation with variants and how the hospitals are doing will all be taken into account as the Government decides what measures to ease.

Mr Varadkar, the Minister for Enterprise, was asked about pubs and restaurants. He said: “we would expect to be in a position at the end of April to give an indication as to how hospitality might reopen across the course of June or July.

“We’ve no detail on that yet but it increasingly evident that outdoor dining is much safer than indoor, but you know we’d hope to get to the point where both will be possible.

“I’m increasingly confident that both will be possible over the course of the summer but I don’t want to raise expectations either and give false hope.”

On the possibility that people who have been fully vaccinated will have more freedoms Mr Varadkar said that no decision has been made on where a vaccination certificate would be used to access certain services.

He said it has been done in Israel and Denmark are considering it. “We’d like to see how it works out there before we go down that route ourselves.

“It’s not a bad idea, but it is fraught with complications as well.”

He said it has been suggested to him that if you allow people who have been fully vaccinated to go to the hairdresser, the hairdresser “might rightly say, ‘shouldn’t I be vaccinated?’”

Mr Varadkar said “a retail worker might say well shouldn’t I have been vaccinated all along’

“Then you would get into some really difficult and complicated questions.

“So we’d prefer to be in a situation in May - and this is the intention - that non-essential retail and personal services will be open for everyone whether they’re vaccinated or not.”

He said: “If we get into an issue around having to produce evidence of being vaccinated I think that’d be more related to international travel and maybe mass gatherings. But we’re a while away from those things.”

Mr Varadkar was asked about comments he made on radio on Thursday suggesting that people who refuse the Astra Zeneca vaccine “will have to wait until the end” of the rollout. He was asked if there was a legal basis for this. Mr Varadkar said: “I don’t think it requires a legal basis”.

“The way it works is people are offered a vaccine... Nobody has been able to choose which vaccine they get since we started vaccinating people three months ago.

“People are free to accept or decline the vaccine they are offered.

“But if they decline their vaccine, it’s not possible for us to say when they’ll be offered the vaccine again, or whether it be the same vaccine type or a different one.”

He denied he was saying they would move to the back of the queue.

He said if a person is offered a vaccine it’s one that “all the scientists, experts and doctors say is safe and effective.

“You have a right to accept it or refuse it. But if you refuse it, we can’t give you an indication as to when you will be offered a vaccine again.”