Implementing new indoor dining guidelines ‘critical’ to reopening

The Minister for Finance said the guidelines give the best chance of avoiding a risk of closing the sector
Implementing new indoor dining guidelines ‘critical’ to reopening

By Cate McCurry, PA

Restaurants and bars applying the new policy agreed by the Government and industry bodies will be “critical” to the reopening of indoor dining, Paschal Donohoe has said.

The Minister for Finance said the guidelines give the best chance of avoiding a risk of closing the sector as a surge in cases is driven by the Delta variant.

Representatives from the hospitality sector will meet later today with Government officials to finalise the details of the guidelines.

It is hoped that indoor dining can reopen next Monday.

Discussions will centre around trading hours, social distancing between tables and ventilation in bars and restaurants.

The Restaurants Association of Ireland wants the Government to resume normal trading hours once indoor dining is reopened.

The guidelines will mean that only people who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months will be allowed to eat and drink indoors.

Mr Donohoe said that any restaurant that meets the criteria agreed between the Government and the Restaurants Association of Ireland will be safe for indoor dining.

I would myself be happy to eat indoors

“What will be critical will be the implementation of the protocol and any restaurants that does meet these criteria and is safely implementing the protocol that is agreed by Government, I would myself be happy to eat indoors,” he added. “I believe it would be safe to do so.

“There is always going to be risk, there is always going to be issues that customers will need to be assured of, but I do believe that the protocol that the Government is looking to agree with the restaurants does give us the best chance of managing the risk that could be there regarding indoor dining.

“If a restaurant is safely implementing those protocols, I myself would be happy to eat in it.”

No certainties

Asked whether the threat of the Delta variant, which has caused a steep rise in cases, could lead to the closure of any sector, Mr Donohoe said there were no certainties with Covid-19.

“Unfortunately this disease has demonstrated to us that plans that are agreed, that are implemented in good faith can be changed by the way the disease itself can change,” he added.

“We have so many examples now of the 16 months that we have all experienced in trying to protect ourselves from this disease.

“It comes to what we believe are the safest ways in which risk can be reduced. I believe the protocol we have agreed regarding access in and out of our country tries to get the balance right between suppressing the disease and allowing an island to continue to have access to it.

“That is critical for an island society and an island economy.

“Of course there is risk in the future which is why we need a protocol, which is why we are outlining the three stage process to allow the safe restoration of indoor dining and if that protocol is implemented, it gives us the best chance of reducing the risk.”

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