IRELAND WILL not reopen on 5 July as planned, the Taoiseach Micheál Martin has confirmed.
At a press conference this afternoon, the Fianna Fáil leader confirmed reports that the Government would not press forward with the planned return of indoor dining due to the threat of the Delta Covid-19 variant, first detected in India.
Speaking in a live press conference, the Taoiseach said his government wanted to make sure that when a sector reopens, it remains open, and is not force to close due to new restrictions or a rise in cases of Covid-19.
He said they were advised by NPHET "in very stark terms" that reopening on 5 July carries "a real risk" with increased cases, hospitalisations and deaths.
Some restrictions will be eased slightly, with up to 50 guests allowed to attend weddings, but "given the increased transmissibility" of the Delta variant, indoor dining will not be allowed.
However, in several weeks, those who are fully vaccinated or who have recently recovered from the disease may be allowed to dine indoors, with the Government aiming to set out a plan which could allow this to happen in the coming weeks, though he did not give a solid date.
The Fianna Fáil leader also said that "supplies permitting", people should be vaccinated more quickly in the coming weeks, giving us "a wall of protection ... a massive defence against Covid".
"We do not want to lose the progress we have made, and I am satisfied that the plan ... represents a sensible, safe and balanced way forward", the Taoiseach added.
The tourism and hospitality sectors have been devastated by the pandemic and restrictions, and Mr Martin acknowledged that there would be anger and frustration from business owners with the new announcement, but insisted that reopening as planned would threaten the progress made so far.
The Taoiseach called for "vigilance and patience", and told business owners that supports would be made available.
Mr Martin went on to say that the worst of the pandemic is behind us, and the country will continue to reopen in a cautious manner.