By James Ward, PA
The Government will next week lay out clear plans next week for the three “trickiest” sectors hit by the Covid-19 pandemic: aviation, indoor hospitality and events.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin travels to Brussels on Monday for a two-day European Council summit, where leaders are expected to sign off on proposals to resume travel between EU member states.
As a result, two Cabinet meetings will take place later in the week, where the latest public health advice will be considered, before an announcement on reopening plans on Friday.
When is it a realistic expectation to say to people… that they can be back in the air?
The Cabinet meeting on Friday will be “very significant”, according to Further Education Minister Simon Harris.
He said: “It’s really going to look at trying to provide clarity on what perhaps have been the three trickiest sectors, from a Covid point of view.
“So trying to provide clarity around indoor hospitality – when can we reasonably expect people to be back indoors in a pub or a restaurant?
“Trying to provide clarity in terms of what we call the events sector – when can we get people back in the stadia, when can we get people back at concerts?
“Can we pilot some events like they have over in Liverpool in the last month?
“And then thirdly, the aviation plan – when is it a realistic expectation to say to people… that they can be back in the air?”
Appearing on RTE’s The Week In Politics, Mr Harris said the Digital Green Certificate would play a big role in the return of aviation.
Under the proposals, people will receive a digital pass that can be scanned at an airport, indicating they have either been vaccinated, produced a negative Covid test, or have recovered from the virus.
The move, to be signed off by EU leaders at the meeting this week, could pave the way for summer holidays.
It is due to be introduced on July 1st, but member states will have the option of a six-week grace period before implementing the measures.
It is not yet clear if Ireland will wait the six weeks, although soundings from Government suggest they will.
Mr Harris refused to speculate on the matter on Sunday.
Later this week Govt will discuss the EU #DigitalCovidCertificate. I will be advocating for its speedy implementation so that we can get our aviation sector safely open again. pic.twitter.com/kmA5lrOo3i
— Darragh O'Brien (@DarraghOBrienTD) May 23, 2021
However, his Cabinet colleague, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien, has vowed to push for it to be introduced as quickly as possible.
Mr O’Brien, who represents the constituency where Dublin Airport is located, made the comments in a video uploaded to his Twitter account on Sunday.
He said: “There are 147,000 people involved in aviation in Ireland.
“We need our connectivity. We need our jobs. It’s a massive driver for our economy, not just here in North County Dublin, but right the way through the country.
“So I will be pushing and arguing as I have done over the past number of weeks for the speedy implementation of the EU digital Green Cert to allow people to travel safely within the EU.”
There are fears in the tourism sector that Ireland will be left behind other countries in attracting visitors if it does not adopt the measures straight away.
Opposition parties have also called for speedy implementation.
Labour TD Duncan Smith said: “It would have to be at the start if aviation is to recover in any way.
“If the Government return their decision to join at the end, then they’re going to have very, very clear and solid reasons for that to be the case.
“We cannot see from this remove what those reasons would be.”
Sinn Féin TD Rosemary Conway Walsh also called for the Digital Green Certificate to be adopted immediately.
There were 438 additional cases of Covid-19 confirmed on Sunday by the Department of Health.