Indoor meals open to everyone with Covid immunity no later than July 26, as government accepts rules

ACCESS to indoor meals and drinks will be available to customers who can prove they are vaccinated or immune to the virus from “Monday July 26 at the latest,” the government said.

People can stay for up to one hour 45 minutes in places where the tables are less than two meters apart. When there is a two-meter separation, there will be no time restriction.

There will be no “over-enforcement” and no Gardaí control over customers in a room. Instead, the public will be trusted to operate the regime as intended.

Rather, checks will be carried out by ‘compliance officers’, i.e. 350 environmental health officers and 70 inspectors from the Health and Safety Authority, who currently operate during standard office hours and have a existing workload. Meanwhile, there are tens of thousands of pubs and restaurants across the country.

The ministers, however, admitted that there was nothing for people to email each other certificates or QR codes and pose as vaccinated people. Meanwhile, a person can say that they have recovered from Covid in the past six months and will be asked for evidence, although it may not be available.

Leo Varadkar and Catherine Martin have admitted tonight that the new system will not be “100pc foolproof”. Both have admitted that counterfeiting occurs, even under normal circumstances, with young people claiming to be 18 years old.

But the arts minister said the alternative was to leave pubs and restaurants closed until September or October.

The Tánaiste said he had “enormous confidence that this very professional industry” would regulate itself, noting that it had complied with the smoking ban in the past.

He said of people pretending to be other vaccinated: “I hope this kind of behavior would be very rare.”

He said there was no guarantee. “It will unfortunately not be 100% foolproof,” he said, adding: “I hope the vaccine wall is strong enough.”

But he added that the signs were that the Delta variant had plateaued in Scotland and could even decline in England, with the two countries having much higher vaccination rates than Ireland.

Bingo halls and bowling alleys are included in the reopening, but nightclubs are not. Dancing will not be allowed due to the tight floors and intimate physical contact, although nightclubs can function as regular bars.

There will be table service only, with a maximum of six people at the table. But this rule and others could be subject to change under the recommendations of a new working group tasked with developing comprehensive guidelines.

Ms. Martin said her department would conduct a pilot project on nightclubs and a country and western show.

All customers will have their certificate inspected and their name and phone number will be recorded in a book. Fines of € 2,500 can be imposed for non-compliance and a closure order can be issued for mismanagement.

The legislation will rush through the Oireachtas this week, and could work from next weekend, in theory, if the president signs it quickly without consulting the Council of State.

Locals could accept European digital certificate and foreign vaccination proofs, such as NHS certificate and US version.

Fully immunized adults can eat indoors with their unvaccinated children. But a single unvaccinated adult “couldn’t arrive with five unvaccinated teenagers or friends,” Varadkar said. “Obviously it would be a risky situation.

“But it’s not the case that parents are going to have to prove that they are the parents of their children.

“We try to be practical and we don’t want to separate parents from children on vacation. That is why we are making this exemption for children. And I think it’s important to keep in mind that children are at a very low risk of getting sick or being hospitalized.

“But we know that adolescents can certainly catch and pass the virus on, so this is not a safe scenario.”

The plan was approved by a meeting of the Intangible Cabinet on Monday evening, with ministers paying tribute to industry partners with whom they had consulted on its operation.

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