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return to normality Digital Covid Certificates for pubs and restaurants could be scrapped

Many remaining Covid-19 restrictions could be lifted in six weeks, the chief medical officer has indicated

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Tony Holohan

Tony Holohan

Tony Holohan

Many remaining Covid-19 restrictions could be lifted in six weeks, the chief medical officer has indicated.

The public will reach maximum vaccine protection by the end of next month, which should clear the way for a return to normality, including the scrapping of Covid certs for pubs and restaurants.

Dr Tony Holohan said imminent events like the All-Ireland football final should be confined to fully vaccinated people only.

But he also said the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) would not have a major concern with an event like Electric Picnic going ahead once everyone in attendance was vaccinated.

His comments prompted organisers of the festival to call on authorities to give them the green light so they can prepare for the concert at the end of next month.

Chair of the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, Professor Philip Nolan, said it will be another four to six weeks before the population reaches maximum protection from the disease.

It is hoped that inoculation rates by then will mean it will be safe enough for the Digital Covid Certificate to be scrapped for most domestic use, although it may still be required for foreign travel.

"It's more towards the end of September in terms of the level of coverage we'd have in the population, vaccination-wise, that we think it could be safe for us to see activities resuming without the need for us to be checking on the status of people," Dr Holohan said.

"We therefore need to get to a certain threshold in terms of vaccination. We also would like to see that the disease control, which we're not seeing at the moment, would be better than it is."

Dr Holohan said that at the moment, when it comes to events and facilities where there are "social opportunities", it is "not safe enough for us to remove the requirement for those to be accessed by way of a Covid pass".

Meanwhile Tánaiste Leo Varadkar is expected to push for the ­reopening of businesses that are currently closed for people who are fully vaccinated or immune from Covid-19.

Such a move would allow bingo halls, bowling alleys, fitness, yoga and dance classes and studios to reopen.

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Mr Varadkar is understood to be concerned jobs are being lost, businesses are losing hope, and people's freedoms are being restricted for what he views as very limited public health benefit.

The Fine Gael leader is among several Cabinet ministers who are anxious to next week set out a definitive timeline for easing restrictions.

The growing political pressure comes ahead of a meeting of Nphet today, where it will discuss advice on when this can begin.

Government and public health sources believe the next phase of easing is likely to be in the middle to later part of next month after the impact of the schools and colleges returning is known.

This will likely include the beginning of a phased return to the office for many employees, with discussions taking place over reducing the two-metre social distancing rule to one metre.

Separately, in a significant Government U-turn, a showdown between the live events sector and the Government has now been postponed until Monday.

The Herald reported yesterday that despite being invited by Culture Minister Catherine Martin, the Taoiseach and Tánaiste would snub the live events sector and send their officials instead to a meeting with industry representatives today. However, Micheál Martin and Mr Varadkar will now attend a deferred meeting due to take place next week.

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach said Mr Martin met with Ms Martin yesterday to discuss reopening of the sector.

This will follow Nphet's latest advice being considered by ministers at a meeting on Friday.

A roadmap to reopen the sector and lift remaining restrictions will then be published on Tuesday next week, after being signed off by Cabinet.

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