BACK TO NORMAL … WITH STRINGS ATTACHED

by Gazette Reporter
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The upside of Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s announcement this week is that restrictions on opening hours for pubs are lifted while, weddings and crowds at sporting events get back to normal.

Strict rules for indoor hospitality will now remain in place for the coming months while it will be February 2022 before people will be able to full go back to work in offices etc.

However, restrictions on pub opening hours, numbers at weddings and attendance at sports events will be lifted. The planned clean-slate  approach was dropped as the government following advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

This left the cabinet no option but to accept that rising hospitalisation numbers and higher levels in intensives care units meant the resurgent Delta strain of the Corona virus was putting an increasing strain on health and hospital services.

The fallout means that there will be a need for restaurants, pubs and cafes to retain restrictions including the use of Covid certificates while it will be a case of table only service instead of free association in pubs. However the number of people allowed to sit at tables will increase from six to ten.

In terms of night clubs, the country’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan gave this sector the green light to re-open in a fully-seated capacity with certain protective measures attached including the use of Covid certificates. And Mr Martin pointed out that “people will be able to dance in a night club.”

Regarding the future wearing of  masks, this is envisaged to continue for some time into the new year. People must wear face coverings if they are at an indoor function or on public transport.

And for a sports mad public, it is heartening to see that restrictions for crowd limits for large outdoor gatherings are totally dropped.

The Taoiseach said Antigen tests and mask-wearing would be crucial during the coming months of “new normal”. He also urged those who have not been vaccinated to do so asap.

However, The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has said the Government’s proposals to extend and expand the Covid Pass system give rise to serious human rights and equality concerns. The organisation says government needs to make several amendments to the system in order to proceed in a manner that complies with human rights law.

Said ICCL Executive Director Liam Herrick: “The Government has not produced evidence that would justify the extension or expansion of the system outside hospitality settings. It should do so. If it proposes to extend what was meant to be a temporary system, government should also provide for a negative test as a means for people who are not vaccinated to enter premises covered by the indoor regulations.”

WHAT HAPPENS GOING FORWARD

  • * The 11:30pm pub curfew to be scrapped
  • *Antigen testing to play enhanced role
  • * Physical distancing to continue until at least February 2022.
  • * Weddings and religious ceremonies attendance limits lifted from Friday.
  • *The reopening of nightclubs with restriction
  • *Booster shots for the over sixties age group
  • *Digital Covid Certificates to be used for indoor settings, including cafes, pubs, restaurants and nightclubs.
  • *Return to office  on a “phased and cautious” basis

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