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Ireland’s reopening is still in doubt; Government to make a decision tomorrow based on NPHET advice

DUBLIN: The further easing of restrictions in Ireland due to the delta variant threat of COVID-19 remains uncertain.

The Government has not been able to decide whether to grant further relaxations on the COVID-19 restrictions from July 5. The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) will meet today to discuss its advice to the Government on this. Tomorrow’s cabinet meeting will take a decision considering the NPHET’s recommendation.

Meanwhile, ahead of the NPHET meeting, Taoiseach Micheál Martin held talks with Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tony Holohan. The Taoiseach met with the CMO after the Restaurant Association of Ireland requested that the Government make a decision by Tuesday on whether indoor entertainment can resume on July 5th. Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and the Green Party leader Eamon Ryan have also been in touch with the CMO over the phone.

There were several suggestions that the reopening of indoor dining and entertainment could be delayed due to the spread of the Delta variant. This is what drives the hospitality sector to demand a quick decision.

The Taoiseach had earlier said that the Cabinet meeting would be convened earlier than expected to decide whether to relax the restrictions, including on indoor hospitality. But the Delta variant has now become an impediment to the Government making a decision.

Issues with vaccinating younger people

It needs to be clarified whether the vaccine brought for young people can be given as a second dose to adults. The recommendation of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) on which vaccine should be offered to young people is expected soon.

It has to be decided if younger individuals will be able to receive the AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson (Jansen) vaccines in the future, and whether 60-year-olds will be able to offer a different second dose to the first vaccine they had. All of this has adversely affected the re-opening of the hospitality sector, Mr. Martin said.

Vaccination progress resulted in a lower risk of COVID-19

The Taoiseach says the risk is lower than it was at Christmas because more people in the country have been vaccinated. He also expressed hope that retail and schools would be able to reopen. Mr. Martin added that the older age group, which is now waiting for their second dose, will be fully vaccinated by July 19.

The Taoiseach said that he doesn’t want to interfere with NIAC’s deliberations on the use of surplus vaccines for younger people. But he said the NPHET has written to NIAC regarding this issue. “It is not just AstraZeneca, there will also be 300,000 Janssen vaccines available as well,” Mr. Martin said.

He said that international travel will resume from July 19 with the introduction of the European Union’s Digital COVID Certification System.

The delay in re-opening will be short: Minister Eamon Ryan

Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan said that any delay in the reopening of hospitality will be a short one. If there is a delay in reopening, the 19th of July is the most likely new start date, he said.

“One of the things we won’t be doing is stop – starting, starting again, and then stopping again. So, when we reopen, we want to keep it open, Mr. Ryan said.

Minister Ryan also ruled out adopting a policy requiring people to be fully vaccinated to enter restaurants and bars.

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