The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) is not going to change its advice on the return of indoor hospitality, the Taoiseach has said.
The public health experts had called for the return of indoor restaurants and pubs to be delayed from its planned date of July 19, until an enforceable system to allow only vaccinated people to enter can be established.
It is proposed that a vaccine pass scheme could see 1.8 million people who have been fully vaccinated or have had Covid-19 sent documents that will allow them to use indoor hospitality.
Despite requests from the hospitality industry, members of Nphet did not attend Monday’s meeting.
Asked why, Micheál Martin said: “Nphet have given their public health advice. The challenge for Government, with the sector, is to operationalise that advice as best they can.
“Nphet isn’t going to change its advice, in respect of indoor dining, indoor hospitality, any time soon.
“It gave its advice in respect of the Delta variant and how fast the variant is spreading.
“Then it’s up to Government to deal with the different sectors of the economy, taking on board the advice that has been given.
“It’s going to be very challenging. The independence of public enterprise has to be maintained as well.”
The comments came as stakeholders met Government officials on Monday to discuss a path forward.
Speaking after the meeting, Restaurants Association of Ireland chief executive Adrian Cummins said: “We’re not there yet, there’s a lot of discussions still to be had.
“We’re hearing that a letter will be sent to 1.8 million people, indicating that they’ve either been vaccinated or recovered from Covid. That number will gradually increase, I suppose.
“That would then be presented at the point of entry. We need some clarity on that – first of all on whether that is legal, and if it is, how it can be implemented.
“It could be something similar to checking ID at the door. Nothing has been ruled in or out.”
Asked how he felt following the meeting, he said: “At least the Government is engaging. We’d like to see some engagement from ministers as well.”
He did not rule out the industry self-regulating the Covid pass system, noting they already polices issues such as under-age drinking.
In a statement, he 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.”
Nphet has ruled out the use of antigen or PCR testing to allow unvaccinated people to use indoor hospitality, something requested by the industry.
However the Taoiseach has indicated the Government will not deviate from the advice, and said he would not negotiate with the industry “by press release”.
He added: “I say this to the industry, very clearly: we need to knuckle down and get on to the issues. Let’s see how possibly we can reopen hospitality, in a safe manner.”
Half of Ireland’s adult population will have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by the end of Monday, the Minister for Health said earlier.
More than 4.3 million coronavirus jabs have been administered, with 49.2 per cent of adults fully vaccinated.
Some 67 per cent of adults have received their first dose.
Stephen Donnelly tweeted: “By the end of today half our adult population will have full vaccination. This will continue to grow in the days and weeks ahead.
“It’s important that everyone continues to ensure they get their second dose.”
It came as the country’s vaccination programme took a significant step forward, with those aged between 18 and 34 able to receive the one-shot Janssen jab from Monday.
Some 800 pharmacies across the country have begun rolling out vaccines to those in the younger age group.
Mr Donnelly confirmed people aged 18 to 34 can receive their vaccination up to two months early under the accelerated programme.
Our COVID-19 Vaccination programme continues to progress with speed.
Janssen vaccine begins in pharmacies today for 18-34 year olds - but supplies are restricted over the month of July.
Thanks to all involved in keeping the progress going. @HSELive pic.twitter.com/EWu4V5blzD
— Stephen Donnelly (@DonnellyStephen) July 5, 2021
It follows updated advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) that the AstraZeneca and Janssen (also known as Johnson & Johnson) vaccines can be given to people under 40.
People aged 18 to 34 can “opt in” for one of those jabs, or choose to wait for an mRNA vaccine such as Pfizer or Moderna.
A number of restrictions were eased on Monday, including an increase in the number of people permitted to attend outdoor events.
Venues with a capacity of more than 5,000 can let 500 people in.
The number of guests allowed to attend a wedding has increased to 50.
People who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from the disease can meet in private homes with no limit on numbers.
Monday saw an additional 365 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland, the Department of Health said.
As of midnight on Sunday there were 51 people in hospital with the disease, with 14 in intensive care.
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said: “In excess of 70% of all cases are now accounted for by the Delta variant.
“While this variant continues to present a threat, those of us who are fully vaccinated can have confidence in their vaccine and should feel comfortable meeting with other fully vaccinated people in all settings.
“Unfortunately, the Delta variant continues to present a risk to those of us who are unvaccinated or waiting for a second dose of vaccine – we need to continue to follow the public health advice, manage your contacts, avoid crowds, wear a mask, wash your hands and most importantly get your Covid-19 vaccine when it is offered to you.”
Daily case numbers may change due to future data review, validation and update, the Department of Health said.