Limerick people must continue to manage risk from Covid-19 as reopening plan proceeds cautiously – Byrne

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EVERYONE must take steps to manage the risk posed by Covid-19 as the Government’s next phase of reopening proceeds on a cautious basis, a Fine Gael Senator from Limerick has said.

Senator Maria Byrne said: “In line with public health advice, my colleagues in Government have agreed to the full reopening of the hospitality, entertainment and night-time sector from this Friday, October 22, thanks to the enormous efforts made by people in Limerick and the success of the vaccination programme.

“Wide and robust implementation of the Covid-19 certificate, along with ID, will be required to enter hospitality businesses. All protective measures should be employed by everyone, including acting fast, isolating and getting tested if we have symptoms; wearing our face coverings where appropriate, making sure indoor spaces are well ventilated; maintaining adequate social distancing whenever appropriate; and covering our coughs and sneezes and keeping our hands clean.

“Nightclubs can reopen with the appropriate protective measures in place, there will no longer be limits on the numbers attending weddings and religious services, and indoor live music, drama, entertainment and sporting events can take place provided they are fully seated.

“As we move forward together, it is vital that we continue to act responsibly and monitor the ongoing risk posed by this dangerous and unpredictable disease,” Senator Byrne added.

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From October 22, the further easing of restrictions can proceed with the extended use of the Covid-19 pass in light of the high level of disease in the community at this point in time, and the uncertain trajectory of the disease. Protective measures include:

  • Requirement for Covid-19 pass (vaccine or recovery certificate) for indoor hospitality and events;
  • Social distancing;
  • Face masks (can be removed for consumption of food or alcohol as appropriate);
  • Table service only in hospitality settings (max of 10 adults per table, and max 15 including children);
  • Collection of contact tracing data;
  • For indoor live music, drama, live entertainment and sporting events, audience/spectators should be fully seated (standing permitted at your seat);
  • Specific sectoral guidance will be developed for nightclubs setting out appropriate protective measures. This will involve COVID-19 passes, contact tracing data collection and wearing of facemasks except when eating, drinking and dancing;
  • COVID-19 passes and fixed capacity limits will not apply for outdoor events. However, sectors should ensure appropriate protective measures are in place;
  • Organisers of indoor and outdoor group activities should ensure that appropriate protective measures are in place, and where indoor groups have a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated people indoors, pods of six should apply. Fixed capacity limits will not apply to these indoor and outdoor group activities;
  • Religious services and weddings can proceed without capacity limits but with all other protective measures remaining in place; and
  • Return to workplaces will continue on a phased and cautious basis for specific business requirements.

Senator Byrne continued: “With regard to the vaccination programme, a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine will be offered to people aged 60 to 79 who have completed their first course with any Covid-19 vaccine, following a recommendation from NIAC. The booster dose should ideally be given six months (with a minimum interval of five months) following completion of their primary vaccine course.

“NPHET has also recommended the HSE should implement a programme of Covid-19 antigen testing (with PCR confirmation of positive cases) for people who are identified as fully vaccinated close contacts of a confirmed case and who do not have any symptoms.

“The Rapid Testing Expert Advisory Group has been requested to provide a view as to the potential utility of voluntary self-testing by asymptomatic individuals who plan to engage in high-risk behaviours and activities, such as going to nightclubs.

“Current enhanced illness benefit payment arrangements for Covid-19 will also remain in place. This benefit is available at a rate of €350 a week, with no waiting days, for employees and self-employed people who are certified by a registered medical practitioner as having been diagnosed with Covid-19 or a probable source of infection of Covid-19,” Senator Byrne concluded.