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waiting game Taoiseach confirms decision on reopening to be made early next week amid concern over Delta variant

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin

Taoiseach Micheál Martin

Taoiseach Micheál Martin

The Government will decide on the reopening of indoor hospitality or a further delay due concerns over the Delta variant early this week, Micheál Martin has said.

It is expected that Nphet will meet on Monday, with the Cabinet in a position to either confirm the scheduled July 5 date, or to push it out further.

But the Taoiseach struck an optimistic note in an interview on The Week in Politics on RTÉ television on Sunday, without giving anything away on the crucial question of the exact date.

“I spoke with the Chief Medical Officer and Nphet will meet earlier this week now and in advance of of the Cabinet meeting (on Tuesday),” Mr Martin said.

The Restaurant Association of Ireland had earlier called on him to make the decision known within the next 48 hours as outlets were facing questions on perishable goods and a short-notice postponement would put them to further cost.

“We're looking at earlier this week, much shorter than originally anticipated,” Mr Martin said.

He refused to stated categorically that the Government would would have a decision on Tuesday, as sought, because the public health advice was awaited.

But he added: “The calculus is different now. The risk is different now than at Christmas time. We have 2.5 million people fully vaccinated now, with close to 4 million overall vaccines doses administered between first and second doses.”

He added: “The older age cohorts have been protected, so all of that has to feed into the decisions that we take in respect of this.”

He said he also understood “just how difficult and devastating the last year has been for hospitality in particular. We get that, and we also understand the need to give early notice.

“They will know a little bit earlier than they had anticipated.”

Mr Martin said reports of varying levels of concern and caution between himself and his Fine Gael partners in Government “are not entirely accurate.

“Obviously we're all going to be cautious. We’re going to put the protection of lives as a priority, but also we know from the economic perspective that the approach we've taken so far has been effective and successful.

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“We've brought back the schools, we brought back construction, personal services, retail, hotels and so on, all without dramatically causing any spikes.

“We’ve show that that sort of steady return of the economy is sustainable. That's the mantra — whatever we open, we keep open.”

But Mr Martin said he wanted to hear the advice and to see the modelling done in respect of the Delta variant and how cases might grow in the future.

He acknowledged however that if there is a delay further delay to reopening, Ireland will be the only country in Europe that will not have indoor dining when July arrives.

“I'm very conscious of that, and there's a number of moving parts to this. There's the vaccination part, the advice we get from Nphet, the continuing application of high levels of testing across the country and a more innovative methods of testing as well to keep the pressure on the virus.

“We're pretty clear that we need to maintain that high level of testing. With the Delta variant you might get outbreaks in certain locations and we can move in quickly.”

But he added: “I'm not going to speculate on what the decision will be. I don't think that's fair.

“There's a series of meetings to be held yet. I will be talking to the party leaders later this evening as well. Let's take it in sequence now — but it will be a decision that will be taken early in the week.”

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