Ireland to wait a few weeks before reopening economy further

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COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease in Ireland
FILE PHOTO: People enjoy outdoor dining as outdoor services in restaurants and bars recommences in Ireland as restrictions ease following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Galway, Ireland, June 7, 2021. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

July 22, 2021

DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ireland will wait a few weeks before considering easing COVID-19 restrictions beyond Monday’s planned resumption of indoor dining and drinking in restaurants and bars, Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Thursday.

Ireland has been gradually unwinding its third and longest lockdown and earlier this month delayed plans to allow indoor service in pubs and restaurants for the first time this year due to concerns about the COVID-19 Delta variant.

Fully vaccinated customers will now be allowed to eat and drink inside from next week after parliament passed legislation that can be applied to other indoor settings such as nightclubs and concert venues if the government decides to open up further.

“The advice from NPHET (the National Public Health Emergency Team), the feeling in government, is let’s hold on to what we’ve gained and let’s take a pause for a few weeks before we ease any further restrictions,” Varadkar told the Newstalk radio station.

Ireland’s tough restrictions has left 18.3% of the workforce either permanently or temporarily out of work. More than half of those are in receipt of temporary COVID-19 jobless benefits, which should fall further with the reopening of indoor dining.

The more transmissible Delta variant is leading to a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections in Ireland, with the 14-day incidence rate up to 246 per 100,000 people from 93 a month ago.

However Ireland’s vaccination programme is currently running at one of the fastest rates in Europe, with 66% of its adult population fully vaccinated and 80% partially protected with the first of two doses – greatly reducing the rate of serious illness and death from COVID-19.

Ireland has reported 287,951 COVID-19 cases among its 4.9 million population, with 5,026 related deaths.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Mark Heinrich)