Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said a Government decision on whether to delay the planned relaxations of Covid rules on July 5th has been brought forward to early in the coming week.
The hospitality industry has been calling on the Government to give it good notice on whether the scheduled reopening of indoor serving will proceed next Monday.
Mr Martin said there were a number of moving parts to the decision, including whether the green light will be given to administering AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines to younger age cohorts in Ireland.
“It will be a decision that will be taken early in the week,” the Taoiseach said in an interview with RTÉ.
Mr Martin said a “steady” approach to the reopening of society had worked to date and he wanted to make sure that there would be “no going back” to forced closures.
The Taoiseach said the advice of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) on giving surplus AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines to younger people would be an “important factor” in the Government’s decision on the relaxations.
He said the Government would need to examine modelling in respect of the potential impact of the Delta variant in Ireland. Mr Martin said he would also look to how the variant has spread in other countries, such as the UK.
“The calculus is different now, the risk is different now than Christmas time for example,” he said.
“We have 2.5 million people vaccinated now, fully vaccinated, with close to four million overall vaccine doses administered – between first and second doses, the older age cohorts have been protected.
“So all of that has to feed into the decisions that we take in respect to this.
“And I understand just how difficult and devastating a year it has been for hospitality in particular, we get that, we understand that and we also understand the need to give early notice.”
Meanwhile, there is speculation that the reopening of indoor hospitality could be delayed to July 19th.
The Business Post reports that the Government is considering a delay of two to three weeks to the reopening of pubs and restaurants for indoor service. Indoor hospitality had been due to return on July 5th. Hotels have been able to serve guests indoors since June 2nd.
The National Public Health and Emergency Team (Nphet) will meet within the next 48 hours to finalise its advice to the Government ahead of the next phase of the easing of restrictions. Cabinet is then expected to make a final call on whether to delay indoor dining by Wednesday at the latest.
It had been expected Nphet would not meet on the issue until Thursday with the Government to then make the final call on Friday, but there has been significant pressure from the hospitality industry to make the decision earlier.
It is understood the Government asked that Nphet give its data on the Delta variant sooner to help clarify the situation sooner for the 100,000 workers in hospitality who will be impacted by this week's decision. – Additional reporting: PA