Explainer: Indoor hospitality to reopen in Ireland

As Ireland’s indoor hospitality reopening gets back on track, we look at the various decisions approved by the Irish Government and how it will work.

Ireland’s Government has approved the resumption of indoor hospitality for people who present evidence of vaccination and children accompanying them.

The move should end weeks of turmoil for the hospitality sector as many business owners faced missing out on the key weeks of summer.

“All going to plan, restrictions will be lifted on indoor bar and restaurant services as soon as practicable”

Irish Government Ministers and officials say they have agreed to “a phased approach to reopen the hospitality sector in a cautious but progressive manner.”

The lifting of restriction was initially scheduled for 5 July, but the rapid spread of the Delta variant internationally and modelling of the potential impacts on public health in Ireland led to NPHET advising a more cautious approach to reopening.

Here’s what you need to know:

When will the reopening happen?

After weeks of working with hospitality industry representatives, restrictions on indoor restaurant and bar services are to be relieved for those who are fully vaccinated or recovering from Covid-19.

With more than 2m people now fully vaccinated in Ireland, legislation to give effect to the changes will be brought to the Oireachtas this week and signed into law by the President of Ireland.

All going to plan, restrictions will be lifted on indoor bar and restaurant services as soon as practicable. Some media reports suggested restrictions could be lifted by 26 July.

Do we need to show evidence of vaccination?

Members of the public will be able to avail of indoor services on the presentation of verifiable evidence of vaccination or immunity status. Customer data once verified will not be retained by the café, bar or restaurant.

Will we require Digital Covid Certificates?

The Government’s new Digital Covid Certificates (DCC), which Ireland and other EU countries are implementing, can be used by members of the public as evidence of being fully vaccinated, or other medical documentation, which will be set out in guidelines in the coming days.

For visitors to Ireland outside the EU, including the US, UK and Northern Ireland, a nationally certified equivalent can be used for the purposes of verifying the vaccination or immunity status of such persons, in line with agreed Government policy on international travel.

Children under 18 accompanied by a vaccinated or recovered adult parent or guardian can also be admitted for indoor services.

How will bars and restaurants ensure the safety of staff and the public?

Pub, restaurant and café operators and hotels will be required to comply with the Government’s Work Safely protocol for the protection of workers and public health, social distancing. Detailed operational guidelines for reopening will be published by Fáilte Ireland in the coming days.

The Government’s Work Safely Protocol and the Fáilte Ireland guidelines place a strong emphasis on the importance of implementing effective ventilation in all premises where the public and workers congregate, including increasing air flow, air extraction systems and the use of CO2 monitors. Improving ventilation will be part of the operational guidelines to be published by Fáilte Ireland and will continue to be part of Government’s communications campaign.

The ongoing effectiveness and impact of measures will be kept under review by the inclusion of the hospitality sector in the Workplace Health and Safety Monitoring Oversight Group.

Will antigen testing finally be approved?

The Government also agreed to give further consideration to the use of PCR and rapid antigen testing in further phases of lifting of restrictions. The Government’s new Expert Advisory Group on Rapid Testing, chaired by Professor Mary Horgan will be asked to provide appropriate guidance. 

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 13 July 2021