Varadkar says decision on July reopening will be made next week

Varadkar Says Decision On July Reopening Will Be Made Next Week Varadkar Says Decision On July Reopening Will Be Made Next Week
The Fine Gael leader said, as with all other recent announcements, a final call can only be made closer to the time. (Photo by PAUL FAITH/AFP via Getty Images)
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Updated at 15:40. Additional reporting by Vivienne Clarke.

A “final call” on whether there can be a further easing of restrictions on July 5th cannot be made until next week, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.

As the Irish Examiner reports, speaking in Dublin today, Mr Varadkar said the Government can only make a decision once it has been briefed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) as to where we are with Covid-19.

He said that as things stand, the plan is still to ease restrictions on July 5th, which will see a return to indoor dining and drinking, allow 50 people allowed attend a wedding and permit four households to gather indoors.

The Fine Gael leader said, as with all other recent announcements, a final call can only be made closer to the time.


On a positive note, Mr Varadkar said that hospital numbers are falling, and the vaccination programme is going very well, but the Delta variant does represent a “dark cloud”.

It comes as senior officials said they are concerned that an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases associated with the Delta variant may delay the next easing of restrictions.

However, according to The Irish Times, if Delta cases numbers continue to increase, officials may be forced to push back the July 5th reopening.


While there are currently no plans to delay the easing of restrictions, senior public health sources said chances of advising to go ahead with the plans are “50/50”, adding a delay could be helpful in slowing the spread of the virus.

The Delta variant, which is reported to be more transmissible than earlier strains of the virus, currently accounts for 20 per cent of new cases recorded in the State.

Delta is also the dominant strain in the UK, prompting England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to each delay their reopening schedules by a number of weeks in order to allow more time for people to receive their second dose of the vaccine.

Political sources expect public health officials to recommend the delay if Covid cases rise, which they said will face little resistance.


The Irish Times reports there is an acceptance at Cabinet level that Delta will become the dominant variant here, particularly given its prevalence in the UK, however, delaying its spread would mean more people would be fully vaccinated, offering them greater protection.

No plans

Commenting on the possibility of a delay to the next easing of restrictions, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly confirmed no plans are yet in place to push back the reopening and Government will not make a final decision until closer to the date.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) would provide a full public health analysis to the Cabinet and there would also be economic analysis and social analysis before a decision was reached, Mr Donnelly told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

The Minister said he was very concerned about the growing number of cases of the Delta variant in Ireland where it was now one in five cases, while it was now 90 percent of cases in the UK and growing rapidly in Northern Ireland.

It had been “a heartbreaking year” for the hospitality sector, he said, but the message he had received from representatives was that whatever decision was made it had to be sustainable. No one wanted to push too far and then have to pull back.


“Covid tears up the best laid plans,” Mr Donnelly added.

Nphet was commencing its analysis of the situation and he expected to meet with them on Thursday of next week (July 1st). The speeding up or delay of reopening was always on the table, but any decision would be made on the basis of public health advice.

The digital travel cert would be based on three factors he said – vaccination, having recovered from Covid or having a negative PCR test. That would remain the position, he added unless there was public health advice to suggest otherwise, but “that conversation isn’t happening at the moment," he said.

Likely spike

Meanwhile, virologist Dr Gerald Barry has said he would be “fairly happy” for the easing of restrictions on indoor dining to go ahead, even though it was likely there would be a spike in Covid cases afterwards.

The Delta variant of the virus was very transmissible indoors or outdoors, he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

It was likely that the number of cases of the variant would increase in the coming weeks, but the growing number of people who were vaccinated would mean that the impact would not be as high as in the past.

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However, Dr Barry did warn that if a person is not vaccinated they are twice as likely to end up in hospital with the Delta variant.

In the UK, when the indoor hospitality sector reopened on May 17th, cases rose from 2,000 to 11,000, with a slow increase in hospitalisations and deaths.

Dr Barry said that by July 5th, the Republic of Ireland will have a higher rate of vaccination proportionally than the UK had on May 17th.

“If we open indoor dining on July 5th, we will see a spike in cases, but I am fairly happy to open,” he added.

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