Hospitality representatives were told today that indoor dining could reopen for 1.8 million fully vaccinated people with a self-regulated vaccine pass system.
A document or email proving vaccination against Covid-19 could be used to secure entry to indoor hospitality.
A letter will shortly be issued to fully vaccinated people ahead of the return of non-essential travel from 19 July, so they can avail of the EU Digital Covid Certificate.
Talks took place today between the hospitality sector and government officials, which focused on whether this document could have a wider use.
It was suggested that the sector could reopen to that market if it was willing to police the system itself.
Sources close to the talks have said that nothing has been confirmed just yet. The two sides will meet again on Thursday.
During the talks, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) is not going to change its advice on indoor hospitality and the challenge is for the Government and the sector to put the advice into operation.
Last week, NPHET said that indoor dining could only proceed when there is a “robust, non-reproducible and enforceable” vaccine pass system.
Mr Martin warned it would be “a huge challenge in terms of meeting that criteria” from NPHET.
Hospitality representatives were told today that indoor dining could reopen for 1.8 million fully vaccinated people with a vaccine pass system.
The sector was told that one possible option is for the industry to self-regulate reopening and to only allow bookings for those who can produce a vaccination certificate.
The Chief Executive of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland said there is a process in place that will lead to options being presented to Government by the end of this week.
Padraig Cribben said he is hopeful that those options will feed into a decision that will allow the industry to re-open on 19 July.
A statement from the Restaurants Association of Ireland said: “A number of options were discussed at length with a view to try and reopen indoor hospitality as soon as possible.
“The group will reconvene on Thursday with a view to finalising proposals which will be presented to Government for approval.”
The Taoiseach earlier said working out how the advice could be put into practice would be “very challenging” and space needed to be created to allow the discussions to take place.
He said he has asked those participating in talks not to get caught up in negotiating on the airwaves and to allow “space” for “genuine discussions” between Government officials and the industry.
Asked why senior members of Government, such as the Tánaiste and Minister for Health, were not present at meetings today with the hospitality industry, he said that the process around the talks was agreed last week with industry representatives.
He added that senior Government officials are taking part in the talks to go through the “nuts and bolts”.
Mr Martin added that it was too early to say whether vaccine certificates will be needed for other activities beyond indoor dining, but recalled that it was Government policy not to implement vaccine certificates up until advice was received from NPHET last week.
‘Dangerous’ to suggest Covid like flu – Taoiseach
Meanwhile, the Taoiseach also warned that Covid-19 testing numbers are “significantly up” compared to last week.
Speaking at Government Buildings, he said that people need to “dismiss” the notion that Covid-19 is similar to the flu.
“That’s a very dangerous sort of idea that gets floated every now and again. It’s not”, he said.
Mr Martin told journalists that the Government was conscious of the long-term impact of Covid-19 on some people and wanted to ensure that hospital services, some of which had been closed during lockdowns, remained open.
343,000 vaccines were administered last week, with a similar target for next week.
“I think we’ll be close to 50% fully vaccinated by tomorrow, so we are making a lot of progress”, Mr Martin added.
Asked if the Government was committed to implementing the Covid-19 Digital Certificate by 19 July, he said: “We’re on track”.
Antigen tests could be ‘recipe for disaster’ – Mills
A Professor of Experimental Immunology at Trinity College Dublin said antigen testing “could be a recipe for disaster” if people think “they can do what they like”.
Professor Kingston Mills said the use of antigen tests “would be open to abuse” if they were self-administered.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, he said: “The problem with that, is we have no way of verifying that the test was actually taken with your saliva, your nasal swab, so that that would be open to abuse. I think it’s really going to have to be a situation where the tests are supervised.”
Prof Mills, who was among a number of experts tasked with carrying out an initial investigation into the use of antigen tests in Ireland, said the group did not explore specifically their use in the hospitality sector.
“Our recommendations weren’t specifically around pubs and restaurants. The benefits of these tests are best seen in workplaces large sporting and cultural events,” he said.
Today also marks an acceleration of the vaccine programme with 18 to 34-year-olds to start receiving vaccines in pharmacies subject to supply.
Meanwhile, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has signed regulations that moves the Covid-19 Passenger Locator Form to an online only system.
Completion of the form online in advance of travel to Ireland will be a pre-boarding requirement for passengers.
The measures will take effect from 12 July.
Additional reporting Mary Regan, Tommy Meskill, Paul Cunningham