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vaccine pass CMO says Nphet would have recommended indoor dining stay closed until 'end of September or beyond'

Dr Tony Holohan told a briefing on Wednesday the Delta wave “is coming, we know it’s coming” and that it will not be over within four weeks

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Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan. Photo: PA

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan. Photo: PA

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan. Photo: PA

NPHET would have recommended keeping pubs and restaurants closed for indoor dining until the “end of September or beyond” had they not proposed a vaccine pass, the Chief Medical Officer has told Opposition TDs.

Dr Tony Holohan told a briefing on Wednesday the Delta wave “is coming, we know it’s coming” and that it will not be over within four weeks.

He said without the recommendation to open indoor hospitality for vaccinated people through a vaccine pass system the Government is now seeking to devise avoids keeping that sector closed for “a significant number of months”

He said Nphet was seeking to ensure economic activity could resume as soon as possible and the alternative was to leave them potentially “switched off” for months and those months would extend to the end of September or beyond.

Dr Holohan briefed TDs on the background to Nphet’s surprise recommendations to the Government to pause the reopening indoor hospitality until July 19 pending the development of a vaccine pass.

He said the more transmissible Delta now accounted for 50pc of all cases and that this had doubled in a week.

He said while the total number of cases hasn’t changed, there is some evidence that it is beginning to track upwards.

He said increases in cases will not be over by the end of September and there is uncertainty when schools return as to the transmission potential of Delta.

Defending the Nphet modelling and projections, Dr Holohan said Scotland had modelled similarly pessimistic scenarios which are “every bit as bad” as the scenarios he had outlined.

He said the five-day average of cases in Scotland was now 3,000 per day when it was less than 200 cases per day six weeks ago.

He noted a new daily record of nearly 3,900 cases were reported in Scotland on Wednesday and its population has higher levels of immunisation than in Ireland.

In a Q&A with TDs, Dr Holohan said the Nphet modelling did not factor in the decision to allow Janssen and AstraZeneca vaccines to be used on people under 40.

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He told Labour leader Alan Kelly it would be a case of getting people vaccinated across July and August to try to "attenuate" the impact of the Delta variant in August and September.

In a broad defence of the latest Nphet advice, the CMO pointed out that public health officials “haven’t recommended closing anything down” when that had been the response in previous waves.

Dr Holohan said the country is now facing a “substantial surge” with “substantial risks attached to that” but that Nphet was trying to find a way to continue reopening parts of the economy substantially impacted to offer a benefit to people who are vaccinated.

Mr Kelly, Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall, and People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett, and Independent TD Thomas Pringle also raised questions about many hospitality workers who are not vaccinated working indoors.

Dr Holohan said Nphet recognised the apparent contradiction in this but explained that staff who are not vaccinated serving people who are both unvaccinated and vaccinated would be “much higher risk” than if they are just serving customers who are immunised.

Also addressing the meeting, deputy CMO Dr Ronan Glynn pointed out that even the most optimistic Nphet model works out at 900 cases per day and 17 hospitalisations per day.

Dr Holohan told TDs that public health officials believed that at least 80pc of adults needed to be vaccinated to achieve immunity in the population.

He said there was good reason to believe that this could be achieved given the Irish public's willingness to take up the jabs in record numbers compared to European counterparts.

The CMO also said that Nphet did not make a specific recommendation in relation to communions and confirmations after the Tánaiste said on Tuesday that these events are "off, unfortunately".

Dr Holohan also appeared to rule out the use of negative tests for Covid-19, including rapid antigen tests, to allow people to access indoor hospitality.

AlanIn response to questions from Kelly about potential overlap between the EU's Digital Covid Certificate and a domestic vaccine pass, Dr Holohan said Nphet had recommended certification of a person's vaccination status or immunity status - if they have had the virus - in order to access indoor dining.

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