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whine 'n' dine Major rift between Taoiseach and Dr Tony Holohan over children dining indoors

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD at the under-construction Cloncreen Wind Farm in Co Offaly. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD at the under-construction Cloncreen Wind Farm in Co Offaly. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD at the under-construction Cloncreen Wind Farm in Co Offaly. Photo: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

A major rift is developing between Taoiseach Micheál Martin and chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan over unvaccinated children accompanying their parents inside restaurants, pubs and cafes.

The Taoiseach insisted yesterday that he did not see “any difficulty” with parents bringing unvaccinated children when indoor dining resumes next week.

His comments follow an intervention by Dr Holohan, who warned parents to dine only outdoors with their children until more of the population is vaccinated.

Legislation on indoor dining for people who have been vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 allows for unvaccinated under-18s to eat inside in the company of an adult.

Speaking at an event in Co Offaly, Mr Martin said people should “exercise their own judgment”, but insisted he did not envisage a problem with people bringing their children for meals indoors.

“In many instances there won’t be any difficulty in terms of children, in my view, accompanying parents in a controlled environment,” he said.

He also pointedly noted that Dr Holohan offers advice to the Government, which then makes decisions based on those recommendations along with other factors.

However, hours after the Taoiseach’s comments, Dr Holohan doubled down on his warnings. In a press release, he said people who were unvaccinated, including children, should “continue to avoid high-risk, uncontrolled indoor settings”, including indoor hospitality.

“I know this is a difficult message for people, particularly parents of unvaccinated children to hear, but if we stick with the public health measures we can limit transmission of this disease and protect others,” he added.

Speaking in the Dáil, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar seemed to chime with Dr Holohan and pleaded with young people to avoid socialising indoors until they were vaccinated.

“There is a risk if they don’t take care that they will overwhelm our hospitals and put healthcare workers under enormous strain again,” Mr Varadkar said.

It comes as the Government prepares to publish regulations for indoor dining.

Time limits look set to be ditched when the restrictions are eased on July 26.

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Under the latest indoor hospitality rules being thrashed out, tables will have to be at least one metre apart, but time limits are expected to be lifted to stop people going on pub crawls.

Official guidelines are still being finalised.

Under the current rules, customers must leave a restaurant or pub after an hour and 45 minutes if tables are one metre apart, while there is no time limit if tables are two metres apart.

The soon-to-be-published rules for indoor service will still insist there should be only six people per table.

Customers will also be required to wear masks when walking through a premises or when they are going to the toilet.

It is also expected that bar service will still be prohibited, and people will be able to order and get served only when sitting at a table.

The new regulations will also allow for both vaccinated and unvaccinated customers to mix when staying in hotels.

Hotel residents currently do not need to be vaccinated to eat or drink inside.

However, once indoor dining is permitted, unvaccinated residents will be allowed to sit in hotel restaurants and bars with vaccinated customers who are staying there.

Meanwhile, a new feature on the Covid-19 Tracker App has been released that allows people to carry their EU Digital Covid Certificate securely on their smartphones.

The app was originally developed last year to allow people to be alerted if they had come in close contact with a confirmed Covid case, but it will now allow a person to show their vaccination or immunity status for indoor dining and foreign travel.

The feature can be accessed by downloading the update and following the instructions in the app to scan the QR code on your certificate, which is currently being sent out to those who have been fully vaccinated.

An HSE spokesperson said the app was “designed to protect your privacy and you can choose what features to use”.

“The certificate is only stored on your phone, it is not shared, you can delete it at any time and it makes it easy for you to carry your certificate.”

The Covid Tracker App can be downloaded from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

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