Hospitality representatives to hold talks with Govt ministers
Representatives from the hospitality industry are due to hold talks with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin.
The Hospitality Forum, which includes hotel, restaurant and licensed vintner groups, meets ministers every three or four months.
Today’s long scheduled meeting is timely as it will be the first opportunity for the hospitality industry to engage with members of the Cabinet, which yesterday paused the reopening of indoor activity for an unspecified period of time.
The Cabinet also agreed to only allow indoor dining and drinking for people who have been fully vaccinated.
It is expected the hospitality representatives will press the ministers for details on how the new plan might operate and, crucially, when indoor hospitality might reopen.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Varadkar said the Government understands the announcement on delaying reopening was a surprise for many people and it will take time now to explain the modelling provided that led to the decision.
He said the next three weeks would be used to accelerate the vaccine programme and to monitor the Delta wave based on what is happening in the UK, where he said there was growing optimism that they can “weather the storm” of the variant.
Mr Varadkar said he hoped that the National Public Health Team’s worst case scenario is too pessimistic and turns out to be wrong, but the balance of risk is currently very high.
NPHET has warned that, according to the ECDC, modelling scenarios indicate that any relaxation of measures that were in place in June in the EU could lead to a fast and significant increase in daily cases in all age groups.
A letter to Government outlined five separate scenarios, with possible outcomes from “Optimistic” with 250 deaths between 1 July and 30 September to “Pessimistic” with 2,170 deaths from Covid-19.
The Tánaiste said he was very disappointed in the approach from Labour and the Social Democrats who had until now said the Government should follow the public health advice and are now critical of its decision to do so.
He said the situation is very unfair to young people but the best thing that can be done for them is to make sure they are vaccinated.
Mr Varadkar also said the Digital Covid Certificate for overseas travel is “not without its complications” but it is a European law and framework, and will go ahead.
Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall called for a Covid test system to be introduced that would eliminate the discriminatory element of allowing only vaccinated people to avail of indoor hospitality.
Speaking on the same programme, she said she is opposed to a situation where unvaccinated people, with no control over when they can receive a vaccine, will be denied access to hospitality.
She said it is also a real problem to tell younger staff working in hospitality that they can work in the industry, but cannot avail of the services and it is inappropriate to expect staff to ask for personal information, such as vaccination status.
Ms Shortall said there have been 275,000 Covid-19 cases in Ireland over the last 16 months, but NPHET’s worse case scenario is predicting almost 700,000 cases over the next three months.
While this is absolute worst case scenario, she said, it must be asked how realistic this projection is and if there are any opportunities to mitigate any of the impacts.
Yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he knew the delay to reopening would be greeted by “dismay and frustration”, but said the Government will provide additional supports in the coming weeks.
He added that he hoped a plan can be agreed by 19 July and the Government would be engaging urgently with stakeholders about the practical steps to make the concept a reality.
He said the Government was advised in very stark terms by public health officials that there was a real risk of spreading the virus if reopening continued as planned on 5 July.
Labour leader Alan Kelly has described the vaccine pass initiative as “bananas” and “discriminatory”.
Sinn Féin’s health spokesperson David Cullinane said his party would like to “better understand” the data and modelling that led to NPHET’s advice to Government.