Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said indoor dining will resume on Monday for people who can show evidence of immunity, despite the fact that the country is 'without doubt' experiencing a fourth wave of Covid-19.
He said: “Our plan is to have those regulations in place by Monday so that indoor dining can resume.
“There will also be guidelines from Failte Ireland, one in relation to pubs and one in relation to restaurants and cafes, and all that will be available for Monday.
“Indoors will only be for people who are immune as a consequence of vaccination and can prove it, and children who are accompanying them. People will need to show evidence of immunity on arrival before they take their seats.
“There won’t be time limits indoors but there will be distancing between tables, a maximum of six people, and people will need to wear masks as they walk around.
“The advice from Nphet is that people who are vaccinated don’t need to observe social distancing indoors, but because there will be children there we will continue to apply those regulations around social distancing in restaurants and pubs.”
Mr Varadkar said Ireland is “without doubt” experiencing a fourth wave of Covid infections.
He said: “I think without doubt we are now well into a fourth wave, a Delta wave of infections.
“Nobody knows for sure how that will turn out, how long the wave will last or when it will peak.
“I suppose we are taking the optimistic view that we will take a similar course to Scotland, maybe peak around 3,000-4,000 cases over the next few weeks and then fall back and not see hospitalisations rise much above 500, ICU not much above 50.
“But we can’t know that for sure and that is why we need to be quite cautious in the next couple of weeks, and while restrictions will be eased in relation to indoor dining on Monday, I don’t anticipate there being very much easing beyond that, at least until we have a better idea as to where we stand with this Delta wave.”
Michael D Higgins has signed the legislation that will pave the way for the reopening of indoor hospitality in Ireland.
The President signed the Health (Amendment) (No.2) Bill 2021, meaning that people who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 in the last six months can dine indoors.
It comes as Cabinet meets to discuss the reopening plans, expected to take place on Monday.
The new guidelines will see an end to time limits for eating inside bars and restaurants in Ireland.
A digital Covid certificate checker is being developed by the Government for businesses and customers in order to check valid certificates.
While it is expected that set time limits for dining will be removed from the guidelines on the basis of public health advice, an 11.30pm closing time will remain but will be reviewed.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin said he had met with deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn on Tuesday to discuss updated modelling around Covid-19.
“I have to say, every setting now carries a risk with it in context of the Delta variant itself and its transmissibility,” Mr Martin said.
“Social distancing is important, wearing masks is important and just being very careful when in crowds.
“That will make it absolutely vital that people adhere to regulations and to guidelines in respect of indoor settings or outdoor settings.
It comes as all adults over the age of 18 can now register for a Covid-19 vaccine from Wednesday morning.
The HSE said that those aged 18 to 24 could register for an mRNA vaccine.
Mr Martin urged the public to remain vigilant over the coming weeks.
“The Delta variant is going to increase the case numbers. We need to keep that to a minimum and we will be closely monitoring the impact of that rise in the numbers we are already experiencing,” he added.
He said the app that would be used to admit people inside bars and restaurants would be discussed at Cabinet.
Mr Martin added: “We are entering a new phase of Covid-19 regarding the Delta variant.
“We will look at the next phase in health in terms of a winter initiative. We had a very effective initiative programme last year which stood us well.
He warned that plans could be “undermined” by the Delta variant.