If our two initial vaccines now provide little more protection than the HSE card they are written on, why are we still clutching to Covid certs for hospitality?
Either the Government fully believes that boosters will safely carry us through the coming months and decides to swiftly add them as a requirement for admission to hospitality, or it doesn't.
If the latter is the case, ministers must ditch the Covid cert system for pubs and restaurants altogether.
Otherwise, we are left with the current situation of still requiring people to produce a cert that shows they have an ineffective level of protection.
When the legislation to introduce the EU Covid cert as part of the terms and conditions of reopening indoor drinking and dining was debated in the Dáil last July, it was argued that the measure was in the interests of public health and safety.
Batting away accusations that the requirement was discriminatory, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said that it was "about what is safe".
He cited the ban on smoking indoors in pubs and restaurants on safety grounds and the age limit on drinking as "we deem it to be not safe, based on public health grounds".
"This is the same. It is about saying if we follow the current guidelines, it will be safe for the people inside, and for the staff," Mr Donnelly told the Dáil.
Such was the emphasis on the Covid cert, in November, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan encouraged people to walk out if they were not asked to show the document.
“You should leave, feel empowered to leave, and certainly not go back to visit," he said. "All of that will help to encourage compliance and adherence in the sectors."
Proof of immunity, or at least increased protection, through the vaccine cert was the compromise arrived at between industry, the Government, and Nphet that allowed for the full reopening of the hospitality sector, which has been massively impacted by the pandemic.
However, the situation has evolved significantly (we have moved from Delta to Omicron) and so the stipulation that customers must show proof of two vaccinations seems almost pointless and past its sell-by date.
Even before Omicron arrived, it was clear that boosters would be required to maintain the levels of protection against infection. Growing evidence shows that boosters are now key.
Data from scientists at the Ragon Institute in Boston published before Christmas showed that antibodies from most people who had received two vaccines could not tackle the Omicron variant — but boosted individuals could.
A Danish study, which analysed data from 3m people, found that protection significantly dwindled after first and second doses, but receiving a third dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines offers a 'significant increase' in protection against the Omicron variant.
Another study by the UK Health Security Agency, which looked at 581 people with confirmed Omicron, found that two doses of AstraZeneca or Pfizer/ BioNTech provided much lower levels of protection against symptomatic infection compared with what they provided against Delta.
However, when boosted with a dose of Pfizer vaccine, there was around 70% protection against symptomatic infection for people who initially received AstraZeneca, and around 75% protection for those who received Pfizer.
The Government, while open to the potential of adding boosters as a requirement to enter bars and pubs at some time in the undetermined future, has yet to make a final decision on the matter.
Last week, thereported that Taoiseach Micheál Martin had indicated that boosters will be required for hospitality.
“In the fullness of time, yes, I think, but not shorter than that,” said Mr Martin. “The HSE is now working on including the booster within the vaccine record and cert.”
Mr Martin added that the Government would have to make a decision in terms of the exact policy, but "it is very clear to us that the benefits of the booster are very significant right now in preventing infection, but above all in preventing severe illness from Omicron.”
It was later reported elsewhere that the Department of Health stated that adding boosters for the purposes of indoor dining is "not currently planned by the Government”.
A spokesperson for Health Minister Stephen Donnelly then added that while there are no plans to immediately add boosters to the hospitality requirement, all Covid measures are subject to constant review, stating: "There are no plans at present, but obviously things can change".
The spokesperson said that no firm decision has been made one way or the other, but it is expected that the introduction of booster certs for admission to hospitality will be discussed by the Government over the coming weeks and months.
Once we reach the peak of the current wave and can once again see over the crest to the steady decline below, the hospitality sector will be lobbying hard to have the 8pm curfew relaxed.
Indeed, pressure to restore regular trading hours may come before then, given that we now know that some members of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) did not agree with the original 5pm curfew recommendation.
The Nphet proposal was not accepted in full, and Cabinet instead imposed an 8pm closing time on hospitality, but some ministers are now said to be increasingly anxious to restore regular trading hours.
In this context, should the Government not be considering an update to Covid certs (as has been done with international travel) in parallel with the easing of restrictions?
When indoor dining was finally allowed to resume last July, the Covid certs were introduced to provide a layer of protection for staff and patrons.
If two vaccines are no longer enough protection, generally speaking, then how can they be still considered enough to get into pubs and restaurants?
It's likely to be quiet week ahead around Leinster House as the Dáil remains in recess. However, in the coming weeks and months, the Government has more than a few potential banana skins it must be careful not to slip on.
Ceta, the EU-Canada trade deal has already caused significant issues for the Green Party. In September, the High Court dismissed a challenge by Green Party TD Patrick Costello over the constitutionality of aspects of the deal.
Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar has said a failure by Ireland to ratify the trade agreement Ceta would “precipitate a political crisis in the EU”.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan recently said he would expect his TDs to vote with the Government on the deal whenever it gets to that stage.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly announced the terms of reference for the review of the legislation which came into effect following the repeal of the Eighth Amendment. However, a chair has yet to be appointed.
Irish Family Planning Association chief executive Niall Behan recently stated that abortion laws are still failing women who struggle to access services due to a lack of provision and time restrictions on terminations.
Current Taoiseach Micheál Martin is set to switch places with the current Tánaiste Leo Varadkar at the end of the year, with a Cabinet reshuffle expected at the same time. Political anoraks will be watching this unprecedented power swap closely.
It is now 12 months since the final report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes was published. Campaigners have voiced dissatisfaction with the recently announced redress, which excludes many survivors. Those impacted are also awaiting the publication of the Birth Information and Tracing Bill later this month.
The ending of Covid supports will massively test the viability of many businesses this year. The Government has estimated that 25,000 to 56,000 people could be laid off in the next three years. However, the Government is still confident that 2022 will signal economic growth.
January 16: The 'complete deadlock' between the civil service and the Government was reported in the
Correspondence released revealed that the question of arbitration to deal with civil service grievances was still to be agreed and "neither side is prepared to change its attitude". A statement from the Civil Service Staff Organisation claimed: "Practically alone in the general body of employers, the Government insists on forcing on its employees its own conception of what are fair conditions of employment."
January 14: A meeting between Taoiseach Seán Lemass, and Terence O'Neill, Northern Ireland Prime Minister, described by theas "historic and completely unexpected" took place in Belfast. "I think I can say a road-block has been removed. How far the road may go is not yet known," Mr Lemass said afterwards.
January 12: Fianna Fáil and Labour formed a coalition government. After his election as Taoiseach for the second time Albert Reynolds identified the currency crisis as the first issue to be tackled by the new partnership government. The crisis saw mortgage rates jump to 16% and deposit rates rise even higher.
January 15: On the final day of his official visit to South Africa and Lesotho, it was reported that Taoiseach Bertie Ahern "wound down the easy way", amid glorious sunshine in the Stellenbosch vineyards. However, he kept in touch with Ireland: "As he strolled up the beautifully manicured lawns of the 300-year-old Dutch colonial settlement, the Fianna Fáil leader's mobile telephone sounded. On the other end was breathless Arts Minister Síle de Valera bearing bad news from home. The Shannon had flooded and some houses were under three feet of water".
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