Donnelly favors ‘urgent sanctions’ for outlets not verifying Covid certificates


THE MINISTER OF HEALTH warned the hospitality industry that the government intends to get “very serious” about failing to comply with Covid-19 entry rules.

Stephen Donnelly said he supported the introduction of urgent and rapid penalties for outlets that do not verify customers for vaccine certification.

Mr Donnelly also said the government was considering subsidizing antigen testing for the entire Irish population.

He said rapid tests for close contact in schools could be rolled out by Christmas.

The minister’s comments on the hotel sector come after the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) found that the number of outlets not asking customers for Covid-19 certification had nearly doubled in a month.

Research, published last week, found that 37% of diners in pubs said they had not been asked for certification, up from 21% the month before.

For restaurants, 34% of diners said they had not been asked for their Digital Covid Cert.

Mr Donnelly said that while Cabinet had not decided how to respond to the increase in non-compliance, it was in favor of tougher penalties for the offending outlets.

“We have to be very serious with the industry about this,” he said.

The minister said the sector assured the government it could reopen safely and within the law.

“I want to recognize that the majority of pubs, restaurants and hotels do this,” he told RTE Radio One.

“However, many are not and ESRI says the number of refusals to obey the law is increasing. I think this is a very serious problem.

“The Taoiseach, as far as I know, is going to meet with the hotel industry, and this large minority that doesn’t respect the law, that puts people’s lives in danger, I think they have some very serious questions to answer.

“A targeted approach is the way to go. We should not penalize the many hotel establishments that do exactly the right thing and negotiate safely.

“If the industry, if this large minority, doesn’t start doing the right thing, I would certainly be in favor of faster sanctions against not the industry, but outlets that are doing the wrong thing.”

On calls from industry representatives for more spot checks by authorities, the minister said thousands of inspections were already underway and more were planned.

“But I don’t think the industry should blame the government for the industry’s non-compliance with the law,” he said.

“I think it’s up to these organizations to engage with their members and make sure they’re compliant.”

Regarding the prospect of subsidized antigen testing for the general population, Mr Donnelly said the proposal was under consideration.

“The subsidized antigen test is one of the things that we are certainly looking at, it is already playing a very serious role,” he said.

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The minister said Ireland had also signed an EU procurement process for newly developed antiviral drugs, but the initiative was dependent on authorization from the European Medicines Agency.

The minister said that while Ireland saw a significant increase in the number of cases among younger age groups, transmission levels in older cohorts had either stabilized or started to decline.

He urged people to cut back on their discretionary social contacts and expressed confidence that the government’s Covid strategy would suppress the current wave of the virus.

He said hospital admission rates stabilized and intensive care admissions fell over the past week.

“It’s very, very encouraging,” he said.

Mr Donnelly said he would prefer booster shots to be more widely rolled out among the population.

As of Sunday, 3,428 more cases of Covid-19 were reported in Ireland.

As of Sunday morning, 478 patients had tested positive for the virus in hospital, including 75 in intensive care.

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