Serious concerns over the government’s plan to reopen for indoor dining were raised by opposition TDs during a briefing Tuesday morning amid warnings that it could create “confusion and confusion.” inconsistency”.
Officials informed members of the Oireachtas health committee about the plan, but no consensus on whether to forgo pre-legislative consideration of the bill could be reached. A vote was taken, with the government TDs supporting a decision to forgo the pre-legislative review and winning by eight votes to six.
As part of the reopening plan, those who are vaccinated or who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months will have to justify it in order to access domestic hospitality.
The government’s new Covid digital certificates, which Ireland and other countries in the European Union are implementing to facilitate international travel, can be used as proof of a full vaccination.
Young people under the age of 18 who have not been vaccinated will be admitted to the reception services if they are accompanied by a parent or guardian holding a pass.
There should be a time limit of one hour and 45 minutes for customers inside restaurants and pubs, with measures for premises to improve ventilation being recommended.
The government hoped to present the bill to Dáil as early as Tuesday. Following its passage, the legislation is expected to be enacted by the president next week, allowing pubs and restaurants to open for domestic service no later than July 26.
‘Lack of clarity’
Sinn Féin health spokesperson David Cullinane said there was “a real lack of clarity on how it will work.”
“We’re making a convoluted plan that won’t be enforceable, won’t work, and just makes it look like we’re doing something we’re not doing. It will only create confusion and inconsistency, ”he said.
Róisín Shortall, the Social Democratic co-leader, said the briefing was “very unsatisfactory”.
“Officials were unable to provide real details on how this will work. There are huge questions around the application and whether the HSA or the HSE has the capacity to designate personnel to perform inspections, ”she said.
“There is also no mention of other mitigation measures, such as legally required ventilation standards for indoor spaces, in the legislation.”
The Labor Party has described the government’s legislation allowing hospitality to be rushed, discriminatory and “a big mess”.
Speaking at Leinster House on Tuesday, party leader Alan Kelly did not rule out the Dáil sitting beyond its last day to debate what he described as a complex issue and criticized the confusion caused by the moment when the Minister of Tourism, Catherine Martin, told RTÉ that certificates or letters could be issued by general practitioners to people who had recovered from Covid-19.
“From a deployment standpoint, it’s a mess, a big mess,” he said.
Mr Kelly said Labor supported the inside meals but would offer it to everyone, with people using other techniques such as PCR testing and antigen testing, which he said were used successfully in many EU countries.
People Before TD Profit Gino Kenny raised concerns about whether indoor meals should take place before the vast majority of people are vaccinated.
He said there were concerns about how the vaccine certificate would be verified by the operator of a premises and that general practitioners had reported concerns about issuing letters to prove that a no one had been infected with Covid in the previous six months. The government has since clarified that general practitioners will not be involved in issuing these letters.
Earlier Tuesday, People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy said reopening the indoor hotel business for those vaccinated or recently immunized would be a “reckless mistake.”
Mr Murphy told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland that the government was “rushing” into the “at-request” movement of a private business lobby.
Fine Gael TD Colm Burke said he shared his concerns with the opposition about the legislation, but the inclusion of a sunset clause meant it could be reconsidered if it were to be extended.
“My only view is that it is a three month deadline, and in that context, that is the only reason I support it. If it is to be prolonged, there should be a more vigorous debate on this subject, ”he said.
Ms Martin said the reopening aimed to strike a balance between protecting public health and jobs in the hospitality industry.
The proof of vaccination or immunity was a temporary system, with a “sunset clause” to be applied by the fall, by which time anyone who wanted to be vaccinated will have been vaccinated, she said. declared.
Compliance officers would make unannounced calls to the premises to ensure the measures were being implemented. The agents would come either from the Health Service Executive or the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), she explained.
If violations were observed, the Garda would be contacted, she said.
A working group comprising representatives from Fáilte Ireland, the HSA and the Department of Health will meet at 2 p.m. to discuss the details of the plan.
In response to the announcement, the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) said the resumption of indoor dining was an “important step” in the recovery of the tourism sector.
Tim Fenn, Managing Director of the IHF, said: “Public health remains the number one priority for hotels and guesthouses across the country.”
Hotels were already operating safe indoor dining for residents and looked forward to “warmly welcoming non-residents in accordance with the revised restrictions,” he said.
“One of our top priorities now is opening safe international travel and yesterday’s announcement is a key part of that.”