Cate McCurry and James Ward, PA
The Taoiseach has said he does not accept England’s approach of allowing Covid-19 to “let it rip” through the country, adding that indoor dining will be reopened on a phased basis.
The Cabinet will today consider legislation that will allow fully vaccinated people to dine indoors following days of talks between the hospitality sector and senior Government officials about the resumption of indoor hospitality.
Mr Martin refused to give a date of when restaurants and bars will be allowed to serve customers indoors, saying only that a plan to facilitate reopening will be in place for July 19th.
He added that the legislation will be in line with public health advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).
“We will do it safely and we will be doing it on a phased basis,” he added.
“Tomorrow, Cabinet will assess a memorandum in relation to a phased reopening of indoor dining in relation to different measures over time, with the initial phase following close advice from Nphet.
“I appreciate from the hospitality sector they want clarity and a decision as regards the timing to reopen. Legislation is critical to that.
“Government is meeting tomorrow and will make a decision on that, but we are working towards a clear timetable both in terms of the formation of the plan and with the industry.
“The whole purpose is to protect people. We need to do it in a safe way. One only needs to look at the figures in Holland, in terms of what the Delta variant can do.
“It’s not Government, it’s Covid - it has caused terrible damage to hospitality, to travel, and to tourism," Mr Martin said.
"I don’t accept the UK’s approach that it rips through. Covid is a nasty virus that can cause a lot of damage to people,” he added.
Mr Martin also said that the use of antigen testing for indoor dining will be considered in later phases.
Also speaking today, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar added that employers should consider the use of antigen testing for their staff.
“One thing I think that publicans could do on a regular basis is provide antigen testing for staff maybe twice a week or once a week, which we know can be very effective.
“It’s different to a one-off test, for example, which perhaps is less effective,” he added.
Mr Varadkar said that while the system to reopen indoor dining is “far from perfect”, it is the only way to get the hospitality sector fully reopened.
“I think the only way that we can open indoor dining and drinking is with vaccine immunity passes,” the Fine Gael leader added.
“If we wait until September, we just don’t know where we will be by then, we could be well into the Delta wave.
“There could be concerns, legitimate or not, at that point around schools and colleges. There could be concerns about heading into winter.
“So I think the best thing we can do for people who work in the hospitality sector and business owners in that sector, is to try to open in a staged manner,” Mr Varadkar said.