The Taoiseach has said compliance with new rules around indoor dining is something that public will have to “buy into”.
His comments come ahead of a meeting between representatives of the hospitality sector and senior Government officials this afternoon regarding the planned resumption of indoor hospitality, following a Cabinet decision last night.
Speaking this morning, Micheál Martin said there are concerns about the Delta variant.
Opposition politicians are also due to be briefed this morning about the policy and the meetings will involve officials, not ministers.
It will allow adults who are either fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 within the past six months, to go inside a restaurant or a bar with their children.
“We want to get the balance right between managing to suppress the virus, and getting jobs in the economy back going again,” Mr Martin said.
“Compliance is something that we all have to buy into. Government has to create a framework that’s sensible in terms of a compliance framework and compliance officers working with industry ensure that this is done in a compliant way,” he added.
When asked if inspectors of indoor dining will be working nine-to-five hours, the Taoiseach responded that he thinks people will comply with the new rules.
“I remember when I brought in the smoking ban. I had the exact same questions. And that’s what I meant by compliance.
“I think people understand what government is doing here. They understand the rationale and the motivation behind this. And I think people will comply with it,” he said.
Speaking last night after the virtual Cabinet meeting, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that the coalition’s intention was to restart indoor hospitality but “safely, sustainably and in line with public health advice”.
However, many questions remain.
The necessary legislation could be introduced into the Oireachtas as early as today.
However, that is not certain, which partly explains why the Government can only say that indoor hospitality will resume no later than Monday 26 July rather than give a specific date.
Now that a decision to reopen has been taken by the Cabinet, representatives of the hospitality sector say they need to speedily agree with Government officials how enforcement measures, such as inspections are going to work.
The also want details on the rules governing social distancing and how the new policy will be explained to businesses and the public.
Sinn Féin, Labour, and the Social Democrats have all raised concern that the policy of excluding unvaccinated people from indoor hospitality is discriminatory.
However, Mr Varadkar maintains it is a public health measure that will only last a few weeks and he still hopes the plan will gain their support.
The Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media has said the pandemic has taken a huge toll on the tourism and hospitality sectors and a system to allow cohorts of people access to indoor hospitality is a temporary one to help businesses re-open.
Catherine Martin said there are 180,000 jobs on the line and while the doors cannot be thrown open quickly, the difference between now and January is the vaccination programme.
Speaking on Morning Ireland, Ms Martin said that vaccinated people will receive a digital cert by email or post, while those who have recovered from Covid-19 can apply to a GP or a test centre for a recovery cert.
This recovery cert can also be requested via the HSE helpline.
People with certificates from other countries (including the EU digital cert and an NHS one) will be able to gain access to indoor hospitaltiy.
These certificates will be checked by premises before patrons are allowed access.
Ms Martin said that Covid compliance officers, appointed by the HSE or HSA, will be able to carry out inspections of premises at any time to ensure that conditions are being complied with.
These inspections will not involve spot checks of tables, but will ensure that operators are complying with regulations.
Gardaí can be notified of breaches and fines of up to €2,500 can be applied to businesses that fail to adhere to legislation or individuals who forge certificates.
A cessation order can also be issued to businesses that fail to comply.
Ms Martin said an indoor hospitality working group comprised of members from Fáilte Ireland, industry representatives, the HSA and Department of Health officials will work out exactly how to implement all of the measures.
She said that details of the scheme will be published on the Department’s website later.
Ms Martin said it is hoped 64% of the population will be fully vaccinated by the end of the month, with 75% by the end of August.
Paul Murphy, RISE-Solidarity-People Before Profit TD for Dublin South West, has said he is opposed to the resumption of indoor hospitality, describing it as a mistake that risks hundreds of unnecessary deaths.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he said: “It’s a reckless mistake that’s being made, yet again, after many, many reckless mistakes made at the behest of private business lobbying and ignoring public health.”
Mr Murphy said the move will endanger the health of hospitality workers, the majority of whom will not be vaccinated, and risks a fourth wave of Covid 19 in the country.
He said he understood business frustrations, and full supports must be given to those businesses affected, but it would be “a really terrible decision” if the Government pushes ahead with the plan.
Additional reporting Paul Cunningham