LEO VARADKAR has suggested that pubs in Ireland could allow customers indoors earlier than previously expected.
The Tánaiste says he's confined that, so long as the virus can be kept under control, pubs and restaurants will be able to open outdoor areas to the public on June 7, as was outlined in the Government's roadmap.
Indoor dining is set to follow a month later, and while no firm date has been set yet, the Fine Gael leader has hinted that it could be July 1.
"I would tend to look to the small number of countries ahead of us in the vaccine programme, places like the UK or Israel for example, and if things work out there, if there isn't a resurgence of the virus then I think we can be confident that we will have outdoor hospitality from June 7 as planned, and from July we'll be able to go to indoor dining," Varadkar said.
"I think you'll see a Sumer similar to the one we had last year, not normal but with indoor dining, pretty much all businesses open, gatherings of a certain size being allowed both indoors and outdoors."
Varadkar added that foreign travel will be back on the cards this year, but warned that it's likely still months away.
"I think as the Taoiseach indicated yesterday, maybe late in the summer or early autumn in terms of people being able to fly. And even then you just don't know whether or not there will be an outbreak in the country you want to fly to," he said.
Ireland's hospitality industry has been hit hardest by the pandemic as the vast majority of pubs and restaurants around the country have been forced to remain shut since the outbreak began.
Crucially, the industry was unable to capitalise on what would usually be busy summer and Christmas periods in 2020, and following over a year of closures, they need all the help they can get.