People love to drink Guinness outside a pub in Dublin city center. On Monday 5th July 2021 in Dublin, Ireland.
NurPhoto | NurPhoto | Getty Images
DUBLIN – Despite the spread of the highly contagious Delta Coronavirus variant, Ireland is relying on “vaccine passports” to fully reopen its bars and restaurants.
Ireland’s tourism and hospitality industry has grappled with stop-and-start reopening during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Office work resumed on July 26th in a kind of photo finish, with the government and hospitality industry setting the guidelines for the reopening that morning. This included final adjustments to the restaurant’s contact tracking requirements.
The main differentiator this time around is that restaurants and bars are only allowed to open their doors to fully vaccinated people or people who have recovered from Covid-19 in the last six months. Outdoor seating remains available to all visitors.
The big test for businesses will be doing these customer vaccination checks.
The main means of proof of vaccination will be the EU’s digital Covid certificate, the same document on which Europe is pinning its hopes for revitalizing tourism on the continent.
Restaurants and bars are expected to scan the QR code on the certificate and check a customer’s ID to make sure they are fully vaccinated.
Noel Anderson is the managing director of Dublin restaurants Lemon & Duke and The Bridge 1859 and chairman of the trading association of the Licensed Vintners Association.
He told CNBC that in the first few days of reopening, customers are still opting for outdoor seating, but his staff have been trained on the new protocols, especially as the summer weather wears off.
“I firmly believe that this will be over in two or three weeks and that this will just be the norm. Hopefully it won’t be the norm for too long, ”he said.
He and many other hospitality businesses declined to request vaccination controls on the door.
“Ultimately, this was a government initiative. This was not being pushed by the pubs, but by the LVA, of which I am chairman, we didn’t want that,” he said.
“Either you want to stay closed until September and beyond, or that’s how you open it. When you have members who are closed [for over a year], you have no choice but to take it. “
The requirement of a vaccination certificate for entering a company premises has generated some criticism, as it is claimed that it is discriminatory for unvaccinated people, while so-called vaccination cards or passports can also be difficult initiatives for data protection and security reasons.
A spokesman for the Irish Data Protection Commission said hospitality companies need to be careful about the amount of data they collect and process and delete unneeded information.
“Owners / operators should not keep records that identify named people and details of their vaccinations or copies of certificates or identification documents as this is not required to meet their compliance obligations,” the DPC said.
The processing of personal data must be “justified on the basis of necessity and proportionality,” it said.
“The DPC has also made it clear that Covid-related laws must be time-bound and limited by sunset clauses to the duration of the pandemic in order to prevent excessive and disproportionate processing of personal data.”
Ireland won’t be an outlier in Europe for long when it comes to vaccine passports in the hospitality industry, as France and Italy are introducing similar requirements for entering bars, restaurants and cafes.
Not every bar and every restaurant wants to reopen its office staff. Pantibar, a popular Dublin gay bar, has chosen to keep its office doors closed as most of its young employees are not yet fully vaccinated.
Another restaurateur, Barry McNerney, told CNBC that his Juniors and Paulie’s Pizza restaurants are not yet struggling to reopen indoors.
“I don’t know if the demand for indoor dining is very high. A lot of places have a young clientele, many of them wouldn’t be vaccinated so they couldn’t really eat inside.”
McNerney decided to wait and see how other companies deal with the new protocols and vaccine controls before diving in.
“We see how other operators are coping and then learn from them what the logistical challenges are.”
Despite the gradual reopening of the economy, many companies in Ireland are still threatened with rising numbers of Covid cases. The number of cases has risen steadily in the last few weeks, driven by the delta variant, with average daily numbers over 1,000.
The continued reopening of the hospitality industry has been criticized compared to the staggering spike in cases where Christmas restrictions were eased in late December, ultimately leading to lockdowns well into spring.
One key difference with the Christmas push is that vaccine rollout in Ireland is moving fast after a stuttering start earlier in the year. As of Friday, 3.2 million people had received at least one dose of the vaccine, 2.4 million of whom had received a double dose. The vaccination program has recently been expanded to include those under the age of 18.