Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has suggested the Covid digital travel certificate could be adopted for indoor dining.
Mr Varadkar pointed out that the Government had taken a decision months ago not to go the route of a vaccination passport, but they would now have to see if the digital travel cert mechanism could be adapted for indoors. “This could be the pathway to do that.”
Vardkar said that a digital cert of vaccination or ‘corona pass’ meant “potentially never having to lock down again”.
Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Mr Varadkar said that the ‘pause’ until July 19th meant there were now three weeks to develop plans for the ‘corona pass’ which could pave the way for indoor hospitality, indoor sports and live events even if there was “a Delta wave”.
“That’s one of the things that maybe isn’t fully understood about the decision and advice from yesterday. Option one is to not reopen indoors until we have herd immunity — and who really knows when that will be. We’d hoped it would be September, but maybe not.
Now we have this option to use a corona pass and potentially never having to lock down again.
Mr Varadkar explained that the Government had not known how “stark” the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) modelling would be until they were presented with the details on Monday.
“We asked them to do the modelling quickly to get the advice to us quickly, so we could make a decision earlier than planned. That was part of the reason why I think it was so rushed — they’re not entirely to blame for that. I don’t think the result would be different.”
Mr Varadkar said everyone had known recently about the possibility that a “delay of two or three weeks was being suggested”.
The Tánaiste also said that the Government will not commission an independent evaluation of the Nphet's advice on indoor dining.
However, all the data would be released for scrutiny he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.
Mr Varadkar said he hoped that Nphet's modelling turned out to be wrong, but it had been necessary to weigh the risk. Until such time as figures on deaths and hospitalisations from the UK were available no other decision could be made.
There would be anomalies and there were details that would have to be worked out, he added.
The Government would now do three things, he said: accelerate the vaccination programme; monitor the Delta wave; develop a ‘corona pass’ for those who were fully vaccinated and recovered from Covid-19.
The public health advice was that this was “a significant pathway” towards reopening the sector and keeping it open. Mr Varadkar said he would sit down with representatives for the sector today “to see what will work”.
The details of Nphet’s modelling on Monday had been surprising, and it had been the first time for the Government to see the details. As new data became available plans would change, he said.
Half of the adult population was now fully vaccinated and more people would be vaccinated in the coming weeks, he added. There were details that had yet to be “worked out”.
Science isn't always fair.
When asked if it was fair to tell young people that it was okay to work in hospitality but not use it, he said: “I don't think anything's fair about this pandemic and science isn't always fair.
“It is unfair, but this is the reality that faces us.”
Was it fair to say to some businesses that they would never reopen, he added.
As a public servant, Mr Varadkar said he was grateful “every single day” to have a job. He was very aware of the difficulties faced by people who had to shutter their businesses.
Mr Vardkar expressed disappointment at the response of the Labour and Social Democrat parties. Up to now they had said to follow the public health advice. He would ensure that they were fully briefed on the situation and would meet with the chief medical officer.
The best thing that could be done for young people was to get them vaccinated as soon as possible which was why the news on AstraZeneca and Janssen meant they could be vaccinated in the coming weeks.
On the issue of antigen testing to avail of indoor facilities, Mr Varadkar said it was something that would have to be considered.
While there are concerns over the legalities of the scheme, Mr Varadkar said they have received early advice from Attorney General Paul Gallagher.
“We had initial advice yesterday from the Attorney General who believes this is lawful,” Mr Varadkar told RTE Morning Ireland.
“We will obviously pass certain laws to do it, but that it wouldn’t be unconstitutional, but that was an initial advice, he wants to consider it again.
The head of the HSE said on Wednesday that close to half of the adult population has been fully vaccinated.
Paul Reid tweeted: “Continued strong momentum on our vaccination programme.
“Well over 100,000 administered in the first two days this week.
“Over 4.1 million done to date with almost 67% adults had a dose one and 44% a dose two.
“Covid-19 hospitalisations at 40 and ICU at 16. Every day more protections.” - Additional reporting from Press Association