The Government has said a mid-July reopening of indoor hospitality might be possible if new data from the UK indicates lower hospitalisation and death rates from the Delta variant than predicted by National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).
In a meeting with industry representatives on Wednesday afternoon, the Government delegation led by Taoiseach Micheál Martin, told representatives of the hospitality industry they were expecting new data from the UK on deaths and hospitalisations associated with the highly transmissible variant.
As The Irish Times reports, if they are lower than the Nphet modelling – which predicted 800,000 cases and 2,000 deaths by winter under a worst-case scenario – then an earlier return to indoor dining and drinking that currently envisaged could occur.
A date as early as July 19th was mentioned at the meeting, according to sources who are familiar with its discussions.
It is also understood that publicans and restaurant groups were told that the vaccine certificate for indoor dining may never be needed, but that the Government feels it would be useful to develop it in case the Delta variant has a more detrimental impact than expected.
Sources say that all groups spoke out against requiring certificates for indoor socialising, and that the practical difficulties were explained to the Ministers present.
This included fears about how an establishment would police the system and how confrontation would be handled at a time when some establishments have encountered difficulties in managing pandemic-related anger.
The various groups were told that a small working group will be established by next week.
The Restaurants Association of Ireland said it will engage with the working group to try and “save the remainder of the summer”.
“The Restaurants Association of Ireland engaged in a full and frank discussion with An Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Ministers Catherine Martin and Stephen Donnelly at the Hospitality Forum this afternoon.
“The anger and frustration of the sector at no plan and no date was communicated.
“A Working Group has now been established and will begin work on a plan to get restaurants, cafes and gastropubs open for indoor dining as soon as possible.
“A fair and workable solution needs to be devised to ensure that there is a final plan announced for reopening restaurants, cafes and gastropubs on 19th July.”
It is understood that the Licensed Vintners Association, the Vinters Federation of Ireland and the RAI “pushed back heavily” on the vaccine certs as being “completely unworkable and unfair.”
The LVA is understood to have said that if the Government implements that system they will “really see what chaos in the hospitality sector looks like.”
They also called on hospitality workers to be prioritised for vaccines and for a tangible process for getting back open, as well as a firm date.
The modelling used by Nphet on dramatic increases of case numbers and deaths from the Delta variant did not take into account this week’s decision that vaccines will be made available to those aged 18 to 29, according to the Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan.
Dr Holohan met the leaders, or health spokespeople, of opposition parties and groups on Wednesday afternoon to brief them on the data and evidence underlying Nphet’s decision to recommend delaying the reopening of indoor dining and drinking.