Phased Reopening of Indoor Hospitality Agreed by Government

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TANAISTE and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar and the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin today welcomed the Government decision to agree a phased approach to reopen the hospitality sector in a cautious but progressive manner.

The Ministers and their officials and agencies have worked with hospitality industry representatives and unions over the last two weeks to assess options to operationalise the NPHET advice of 28th June that restrictions on indoor restaurant and bar services be eased for those that are fully vaccinated or recovered by COVID-19. The lifting of restriction was initially scheduled for 5th July 2021, but the rapid spread of the Delta variant internationally and modelling of the potential impacts on public health in Ireland led to NPHET advising a more cautious approach to reopening.

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In the context of the overriding objectives to protect public health and to mitigate the potential for further restrictions arising from the Delta or other variants the Government has agreed to:

· ease restrictions on indoor hospitality for members of the public who are fully protected by vaccination or who have recovered from COVID-19 in the previous six months. Over 2 million people are now fully vaccinated in Ireland;

· members of the public will be able to avail of indoor services on the presentation of verifiable evidence of vaccination or immunity status. Customer data once verified will not be retained by the café, bar or restaurant;

· the Government’s new Digital Covid Certificates (DCC), which Ireland and other EU countries are implementing, can be used by members of the public as evidence of being fully vaccinated, or other medical documentation, which will be set out in guidelines in the coming days;

· for visitors to Ireland outside the EU, including the US, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, a nationally certified equivalent can be used for the purposes of verifying the vaccination or immunity status of such persons, in line with agreed Government policy on international travel; and,

· children under-18 accompanied by a vaccinated or recovered adult parent or guardian can also be admitted for indoor services.

So as to ensure a safe and sustained reopening, social distancing measures will remain in place in order to protect workers and children in such premises in line with discussions with unions and the hospitality sector. As fully vaccinated and recovered non-residents will be mixing with vaccinated and unvaccinated residents and workers in hotels, full social distancing measures will continue in hotels.

Pub, restaurant and café operators and hotels will be required to comply with the Government’s Work Safely protocol for the protection of workers and public health, social distancing. Detailed operational guidelines for reopening will be published by Fáilte Ireland in the coming days.

The Government’s Work Safely Protocol and the Fáilte Ireland guidelines place a strong emphasis on the importance of implementing effective ventilation in all premises where the public and workers congregate, including increasing air flow, air extraction systems and the use of CO2 monitors. Improving ventilation will be part of the operational guidelines to be published by Fáilte Ireland and will continue to be part of Government’s communications campaign.

The ongoing effectiveness and impact of measures will be kept under review by the inclusion of the hospitality sector in the Workplace Health and Safety Monitoring Oversight Group.

Following agreement by Government today of required legal underpinning for the phased reopening of indoor hospitality and for a system of verification, compliance and enforcement, the Minister for Health will present the amending legislation to the Houses of the Oireachtas in the coming days.

In relation to setting a date for opening of this sector, it is the Government’s intention to allow the sector to open as soon as practicable. This will be dependent on the passage of the Bill through the Houses of the Oireachtas over the coming days and the submission to the President for signature.

The Government also agreed to give further consideration to the use of PCR and rapid antigen testing in further phases of lifting of restrictions. The Government’s new Expert Advisory Group on Rapid Testing, Chaired by Professor Mary Horgan will be asked to provide appropriate guidance.