By Cate McCurry, PA
Simon Harris said that plans to reopen indoor dining are being carried out in a “very prudent and very cautious” way, as cases of Covid-19 begin to surge.
A decision on when indoor pubs and restaurants can reopen to the public is expected to be made at Cabinet on Wednesday.
Last week, the Dáil and Seanad passed the Government’s legislation which paves the way to the resumption of indoor dining.
President Michael D Higgins will then sign the legislation into law.
Despite a surge in case numbers, the Government is to go ahead with its plan to reopen indoor dining.
Mr Harris said they are following public health advice about the reopening.
“The Government hasn’t received any new advice from the Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) that would suggest we should do anything other than proceed along the basis we are planning to do so,” he said.
“We are probably the last country in the EU to reopen indoor hospitality and we are reopening in the most conservative manner possible.
“In most European countries, people can dine indoors and some you can indoors if you have a negative PCR test.
“We are taking a very prudent and very cautious approach.
“Only a few weeks ago we were criticised for taking that approach.
“I think it’s important that we open things in a sustainable way, there is no doubt the number of cases in Ireland is going to increase and increase significantly over the days and weeks ahead, we are already seeing evidence of that.”
He said that the number of people admitted to hospital will increase, and is already rising.
“This has always been a race between vaccine and variant. We are on track to have an overwhelming number of people fully vaccinated by the end of August,” he added.
“We are on track.
“If you are not fully vaccinated, you are more likely to get Covid now than ever before, so you must exercise extreme caution.”