INDOOR DINING could be off the cards until as late as October unless pubs and restaurants adopt 'vaccine pass' systems, Dr Tony Holohan has warned.
On Tuesday it was announced that the return of indoor hospitality would be delayed beyond July 5 due to the rise in Delta variant cases across the country, in a crushing blow to the service industry.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that once indoor dining reopened, only those who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will be allowed to use those areas.
Government have also hinted at adopting a digital vaccine certificate system - similar to the one used for international travel between EU nations - in order to ensure this rule is followed.
The announcement was met with derision from the public with many branding the rule discriminatory and divisive, and both Martin and Ireland's chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan have been forced to publicly defend the move in the days since.
Dr Holohan insists that vaccine passes are necessary to avoid an even longer wait to reopen pubs, hinting that indoor dining areas could stay closed until as late as October without them.
He warned that a Delta wave "is coming" and that Ireland needs to do all it can to reduce the risk of transmission as much as possible, now matter badly people are missing pubs.
The Taoiseach meanwhile said that the new rules were proposed to protect people, not to divide them.
He stressed that "whether we like it or not", the Delta variant is far more transmissible and creates risks that cannot be ignored, adding that schools, childcare, sport, construction, outdoor hospitality and retail would all be jeopardised if cases began to spiral out of control.
"The decision yesterday is to protect all that," Martin said.
"That is my only motivation and the only motivation of Government. It is to protect that and to protect people, not to divide people and divide society."