The Government’s decision to delay the reopening of indoor hospitality has been met with an almost exclusively negative reaction from businesses and representative bodies.
Today’s announcement did give some detail on what happens next for those affected – though it also left a number of questions unanswered.
Here’s what businesses learned today:
Indoor dining delay
Having been slated to reopen on 5 July, indoor dining and drinking will now not happen until at least the 19th July.
When it does reopen, it will be restricted to people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, or who have recently recovered from the virus.
The Government aims to have a “practical and workable” system of checking vaccine or recovery status in place by the 19th, though Taoiseach Micheál Martin also said that it was not yet clear whether indoor hospitality will actually be able to resume on that date.
Other indoor activities
It wasn’t just pubs and restaurants that were set to reopen indoor facilities next week – certain training, exercise and dance activities were also set to resume on 7 July.
They are also now facing a delay, and whenever they can reopen it looks likely that they will be subject to the same vaccine checks as hospitality.
It also remains unclear whether other forms of indoor entertainment – like cinemas and theatres – might end up subject to the vaccine checking system.
A step forward for some
There was a small sliver of positive news for certain businesses, with the confirmation that the easing of restrictions on outdoor events and weddings will go ahead.
That means that, from next week, 200-500 people will be able to attend outdoor events – conditional on the size of the venue.
Meanwhile 50 people will be able to attend a wedding reception – double the number that has been allowed until now.
State supports extended
For those that now cannot reopen, the Government has promised additional State supports for the weeks ahead.
That will see two double weeks of the Covid Recovery Support Scheme being paid – worth up to €10,000 for qualifying firms.
Meanwhile the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, which was due to close to new applicants tomorrow night, will now remain open until midnight on 7 July.
That means that those who had signed off the scheme in anticipation of resuming work next week will be able to reapply.
Vaccine roll-out accelerated
The Government’s decision to restrict indoor events to those who have been vaccinated makes NIAC’s decision on the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson jabs all the more significant.
Yesterday it announced that both vaccine types could be given to people aged 18-49, while the window between the first and doses of AstraZeneca could be reduced to four weeks.
Tanáiste Leo Varadkar said the move means that the HSE should be able to accelerate its vaccine rollout, meaning more people will be fully or partially vaccinated by the end of next month.
What’s still unknown…
The Government clearly linked the reopening of indoor hospitality to a vaccine checking system – however there was very little detail today about the exact shape it would take.
The 19 July target would see it coincide with Ireland’s implementation of the European Union’s Covid Certificate – which is designed to verify a traveller’s vaccine, recovery or test status.
However it is not clear if that certificate could be used as the basis for a domestic system.
The Taoiseach made clear they wanted the eventual scheme to be “practical and workable”, and said they would engage with representative bodies and businesses in order to make that happen.
However he also declined to say whether it would require people to carry around a kind of ID card, while also saying they were not considering fines for businesses that do not enforce the system.