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Delta gamble Government gambles as children allowed to dine indoors with adults despite Holohan’s warning

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly also proposed that only children under 12 should be allowed eat inside

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin

Taoiseach Micheál Martin

Taoiseach Micheál Martin

The Government is to take a major gamble by allowing adults and unvaccinated children dine together indoors in a major easing of Covid-19 restrictions.

The move comes despite chief medical officer Tony Holohan warning against allowing children dine indoors.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly also proposed that only children under 12 should be allowed eat inside.

However, last night Fáilte Ireland published updated guidelines in advance of the re-opening of indoor hospitality on Monday, which are expected to be formally signed off tomorrow.

A maximum of six persons aged 13 or over are permitted at a table, under the guidelines. The limit of six does not include accompanying children aged 12 or younger. The total combined capacity at a table cannot exceed 15 overall, and mingling between tables will not be allowed.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said: “The restrictions being applied to this re-opening are designed to be a temporary measure, and hugely important for the sector and their customers. I know that operating this new system will be inconvenient for business and could add to staff costs. It is, however, the only way we can re-open and stay open throughout this Delta wave.

“There will be teething problems and we will work with the industry to review and amend the regulations as needed and based on practical experience.”

Under the rules, the time limit for sitting at tables has been removed. There will be no change to closing time, with Covid regulations requiring all premises to close at 11.30.

All indoor areas “should be well ventilated.”

The guidelines say: “There must be a defined, managed and supervised entrance point with an appropriate queue management system within the business (at entrance to premises or as near to the entrance as possible) or at point of entry to seating areas, that is controlled by personnel who have been instructed in the process.”

Businesses must keep a record of the time and date of arrival at the premises of each guest customer and the name and telephone number for contact tracing purposes. Details must be retained for 28 days and be complaint with GDPR.

Meanwhile, businesses which re-open will be able to avail of the three week double payment of the Covid Restriction Support Scheme.

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The EU Digital Covid Cert or HSE Covid-19 vaccination record will be used as the primary evidence when going into a pub, restaurant, café or food court to access indoor hospitality. People may also be asked for photo ID.

The move comes amid a rapidly increasing rate of new Covid-19 cases due to
the super-contagious Delta variant.

The Department of Health yesterday recorded 1,386 new cases which included 106 people in hospital and 22 in intensive care units.

There will be no time limits for how long people can dine indoors and tables will only need to be one metre apart. The guidelines advise keeping tables two metres apart as best practice but one metre will be permitted. There will be no separate table distances for people who are dining with unvaccinated children.

Customers will be required to wear masks when walking around inside the premises

Every person who wants to eat or drink indoors will also be required to give their name and phone number under new contact-tracing rules.

Restaurants, pubs and cafes have also been asked to police every entrance to their premises to ensure customers cannot walk in without first being checked for proof of immunity

This new rule is understood to have raised eyebrows among industry representative who only learned of the guideline on entrances yesterday.

“It is going to be very hard for businesses to implement a policy like that,” a source at the meeting said.

Businesses will be provided with new social-distancing signs to promote a more
cautious approach to the easing of restrictions.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he was confident the public would fully comply with new indoor dining rules as he confirmed Ireland would have the fastest-running vaccination programme worldwide within the next 14 days.

Speaking in Cork yesterday, Mr Martin said the Government and health agencies had to trust the public in terms of the new regulations regarding indoor dining.

Those who dine indoors from Monday must either have proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19, along with photo identification – while every member of their group must give their names and phone numbers for
contact-tracing purposes.

Mr Martin said the Government was trying to balance the need to reopen the economy to people while also ensuring the maximum possible level of protection against Covid-19 is maintained.

“The chief medical officer is of the view that the staff are better protected by serving only vaccinated people in an indoor setting,” he said.

“But that said, the vaccination programme is running very fast. We now, in two weeks, will have the fastest-running vaccination programme in the world. Our uptake is very high as a people. We are ahead of schedule.”

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said it was unlikely people who had negative PCR or antigen tests would be permitted inside restaurants, pubs or cafes until after the current surge in the Delta variant.

“There is strong sense, certainly in Government, and certainly in the advice that we’re getting from Nphet, that we should go very carefully around any further easing of restrictions at least until the Delta wave peaks,” he said.

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