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Social distancing Pubs and restaurants demand end to two-metre rule if vaccine passes are brought in

Owners say scrapping distancing will generate an economic boost

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Publicans and restaurant owners want two-metre social distancing to end

Publicans and restaurant owners want two-metre social distancing to end

Publicans and restaurant owners want two-metre social distancing to end

Pubs and restaurants are demanding social distancing be scrapped for indoor dining if vaccine passes are introduced.

Ahead of a meeting with the Government today, the hospitality industry insists rules on table distances should be ditched in return for pub and restaurant owners supporting plans for a new vaccine ID ­system for indoor dining.

Under the current Covid-19 restrictions, tables must be kept two metres apart if customers are staying longer than 105 minutes.

At a meeting last week with Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, publicans said social distancing rules should be dropped if only vaccinated people are allowed in pubs. It is understood Mr Varadkar said he is open to the proposals.

Yesterday, a Vintners' Federation of Ireland spokesperson said: "The point made to the Taoiseach and Tánaiste is that the presumption from our side is if you have to be vaccinated to get into a pub, then, ergo, social distancing doesn't come into play."

Restaurant Association of Ireland chief executive Adrian Cummins echoed the calls of the Vintners' Federation.

"If they are bringing in the vaccine passes, then removing social distancing restrictions has be to be on the table," Mr Cummins said.

"If social distancing is removed for hospitality businesses, it will generate an economic bonus for restaurants, pubs and cafes."

However, Mr Cummins insisted his main focus will be seeking a date for indoor dining resuming and a detailed outline for how vaccine passes will operate.

The Vintners' Federation spokesperson said he expects the Government to put "meat on the bones" of what it is proposing.

However, it remained unclear last night if the Government had developed any plan since it met the hospitality sector after the shock announcement that indoor dining could only return if IDs for vaccinated people are introduced.

The news was a major blow for the industry, which has felt the full brunt of the pandemic with many businesses yet to reopen.

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One Cabinet minister said social distancing could be scrapped if only vaccinated customers were permitted in pubs or restaurants.

"We can only really do that if we don't allow PCR or antigen testing for indoor dining," the minister said.

One senior Government source played down the prospect of any detailed proposals being presented to the hospitality sector at today's meeting.

"This is the first meeting of the group, so it's about working with the sector to develop options," the source said.

"It's an opportunity to build on the constructive discussions of last week."

Mr Cummins was also critical of news that there are no plans to invite representatives from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) to the meeting with the hospitality sector.

He called on the Taoiseach and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly to instruct Nphet officials to attend the meeting.

"Negotiations need swift and accurate decisions in order to restart the hospitality sector as soon as possible," he said on Twitter.

Meanwhile, there is growing frustration in Government over the introduction of the EU's Digital Covid Certificate for international travel.

Junior Communications Minister Ossian Smyth, who is overseeing the introduction of the certs, refused to respond to queries yesterday despite reports suggesting he was going to miss the July 19 date for introducing the scheme.

Mr Smyth is already under pressure after European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders contradicted his claims that the HSE cyber attack would not delay the introduction of the certificates for international travel.

Ireland is the only country in the EU that does not have the system already in place.

A Green Party spokesperson said Mr Smyth is "confident the system will be ready by July".

However, he could not guarantee the certificates will be ready in time.

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