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Set back Taoiseach says 'we’re in race between variants and vaccine', as government updates country on delays

  • Indoor dining expected to require vaccine passports from July 19
  • Alternative is keeping indoor services close until country achieves herd immunity – Varadkar
  • Larger numbers on cards for sporting events

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin addressing the nation

Taoiseach Micheál Martin addressing the nation

Taoiseach Micheál Martin addressing the nation

Government have taken the decision to delay some elements of Ireland’s reopening, after seeing dire projections from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) of what could occur if the Delta variant became more rampant.

The Taoiseach announced that it has not been confirmed that hospitality is reopening for people who are fully vaccinated on July 19, but that a plan will be in place by then.

He said bringing in vaccination certs for domestic use “is a difficult change” and that the Government only ever planned on using these passports for international travel.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said this bonus will also be allowed for indoor theatres and music venues.

However, he said the Government needs a few weeks to sort it out as “it’s very complex and it’s not something we anticipated.”

Mr Varadkar said that the alternative is keeping these services closed until the country achieves her immunity.

However, people who are fully vaccinated could see a ‘vaccine bonus’ where they may be allowed to do things, such as dining indoors, which unvaccinated people will not be allowed to do. 

Speaking this afternoon Mr Martin said when a sector of the economy reopens the Government wants to “make sure it stays open”.

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Mr Martin said the Government has agreed to delay some elements of the July 5 reopening.

The Taoiseach said the country is in a battle to vaccinate as the Delta variant looms. “We want to make sure the vaccine wins”.

"We do not want to lose the progress we have made,” he said.

“Over the course of the last number of weeks concern has been growing here and across the world of the risk associated with the delta variant,” Mr Martin said opening his address to the nation.

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“While we are all still learning about it one thing that is clear is that it is much more transmissible. So what impact will the variant have on our reopening plan?”

Mr Varadkar said the “honest truth” is that he doesn’t know how long the Delta wave will last or how bad it will be.

“We do not know how bad or for how long the Delta wave will last, we know it will happen but we don’t know how long it will last,” he said.

He added that from Nphet’s projection if the reopening went ahead as previously planned 165 deaths would occur over the next three months.

However, he said the pessimistic scenario would see over 2,000 deaths in the same period of time.

“With that in mind we decided we are going to be cautious and air on the side of caution,” the Tánaiste said.

“We know it is more infectious, but we do not know if it’s more severe.”

A breakdown of how things stand for different sectors can be seen below:

Hospitality 

The reopening of indoor dining is expected to be delayed until at least July 19 while a system to allow vaccinated people or those who have been infected with Covid-19 in the last nine months to dine inside is developed.

When asked about the use of vaccine passports for reopening indoor hospitality and events, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the alternative is keeping them closed until the country reached herd immunity.

"We only ever planned to use vaccination passes for international travel,” Mr Varadkar said.

“This is a big change, it’s a difficult change, it’s not one anyone up here is delighted about. But the alternative is to keep these services and facilities closed until we reach herd immunity and we can’t say when that is. So this might just be the way forward," he added.

A number of vaccination certificate options are understood to be being considered by ministers as anger grows among restaurant owners over a further delay in reopening.

One proposal would see people asked to produce their vaccine certificate and another form of ID to eat or drink inside.

There are also discussions about developing a smartphone app which could be used to show proof of being vaccinated or being diagnosed with Covid in the last nine months.

There are concerns among ministers that vaccine passport system will not be in place by July 19 and Taoiseach Micheál Martin did not give a date for indoor dining resuming when he addressed the nation.

Outdoor events 

It is expected that up to 200 people will be allowed to attend sports or music events in smaller venues while 500 fans will be permitted to attend matches or gigs in stadiums with a capacity for more than 5,000 spectators.

Household visits 

Restrictions are expected to be eased on household visits for fully vaccinated people.

Currently, unvaccinated people are allowed to meet with one other household at home indoors while fully vaccinated people can meet indoors with other fully vaccinated people, up to a maximum of three households.

International Travel 

It is not expected to be announced whether the date of July 19 for non-essential travel within the EU will be pushed back. 

A final decision on international travel will not be taken until next week’s Cabinet meeting.

Vaccination programme 

The vaccination programme is set to be accelerated as Ireland is set to break from the international trend by vaccinating younger age groups with the AstraZeneca and one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

And in a move to fast-track vaccinations for the gap between doses of AstraZeneca is set to be slashed from eight to four weeks.

The Irish Independent understands that the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac) has recommended that the current age limit on the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson jabs be lifted to speed up the vaccination of the under-40s, who would previously have been waiting until later in the summer to be offered their first dose.

It will also mean that these vaccines will not go to waste as had previously been feared.

Weddings

Mr Martin announced that weddings will also be allowed to increase to 50 people as planned “given it’s special nature.”

“The feedback across the entire country of the course of the last year has been consistent,” the Taoiseach said.

“The process of reopening and closing different sectors has had a terrible impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing and has a potentially devastating impact on the sectors impacted. We want to avoid a repeat of that cycle.

“Nphet’s clear advise based on the modelling its done that given the transmissibility of the Delta variant the safest way to now proceed with indoor dining is to limit access to those who have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid.

“The Government will work urgently with the relevant sectors to agree a practical and workable approach.

“The simple truth is we are in a race between the variant and vaccine.”

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