Written answers

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Steven Matthews (Wicklow, Green Party)
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468. To ask the Minister for Health if his attention has been drawn to cases of businesses that operate an appointment only, physical training facility; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that these businesses are categorised as similar to gyms in phase 5 of the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business; and if his attention has been drawn to the fact that it is the contention of the owners of these centres that phase 3 would be more appropriate in view of the fact they are more akin to behind-closed-door sports as set out in the roadmap due to their capacity to operate social distancing and regular cleaning of facilities by their staff. [10724/20]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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As the Deputy is aware, the Government confirmed the move to Phase 2 of Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business from Monday, 8 June 2020. Information and advice about the restrictions that have been eased as part of Phase 2 and the measures that are now in place are available on the Government website at http://www.gov.ie/phase2. 

I would like to draw the Deputy's attention to the Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 (SI No. 206 of 2020) signed by me, which came into operation on 8 June 2020 until 29 June 2020. The new Regulations provide for the unwinding of certain restrictions provided for in the earlier Regulations and also provide for continued restrictions for some business and services.

The purpose of this regulatory approach to the implementation of the public health framework is to inform a slow, gradual, step-wise and incremental reduction of the current public health social distancing measures, in a risk-based, fair and proportionate way with a view to effectively suppressing the spread of COVID-19 disease while enabling the gradual return of social and economic activity. The Government, informed by the public health advice provided by the Department of Health, has decided to take a gradual re-opening of society and the economy as risks to human health and life caused by COVID-19 remain and lifting the measures in place carries considerable great uncertainty and risk.

Regulation 7(1) of the Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 provides that the occupier, manager, or any other person in charge shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that members of the public are not permitted, or otherwise granted, access to a premises, or to a part of such premises, where a relevant business or service is carried on or otherwise provided. The relevant businesses or services to which this provision applies are listed in Schedule 2 of the regulation. The businesses and services described in Schedule 2 which are not permitted to open at this time include the following:

Swimming pools, indoor fitness facilities and sports facilities, other than insofar as they are necessary for athletic use and training by persons specified in Regulation 5(4)(a) or the coaching and support personnel of such persons.

The Deputy may wish to note that Regulation 7(1) is a penal provision for the purposes of section 31A of the Health Act 1947 and provides for penalties of up to a fine of €2,500 or six months’ imprisonment, or both for breach of the Regulations. 

The Government also agreed to bring forward actions in the remaining phases of the Roadmap and plan for four phases rather than the five originally indicated. Work is underway to consider how best to achieve this aim and more information will be made available in the coming weeks.

Paul McAuliffe (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail)
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469. To ask the Minister for Health the criteria for selling food that a public house will have to adhere to in order to open on 29 June 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11214/20]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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The Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business, published on 1 May 2020, sets out an indicative path to the easing of COVID 19 restrictions and other actions in order to facilitate the reopening of Ireland’s society and economy in a phased manner. Phase 1 was introduced on 18 May 2020 and the Government confirmed the move to Phase 2 of Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business from Monday, 8 June 2020. Information and advice about the restrictions that have been eased as part of Phase 2 and the measures that are now in place are available on the Government website at .

The Roadmap specifies that decisions in relation to which actions will be taken and which public health measures might be lifted will be made in accordance with the Framework for Future Decision-Making which is as follows:

1. Before each Government consideration of the easing of restrictions, the Department of Health will provide a report to the Government regarding the following on/off trigger criteria:

a. The latest data regarding the progression of the disease,

b. The capacity and resilience of the health service in terms of hospital and ICU occupancy,

c. The capacity of the programme of sampling, testing and contact tracing,

d. The ability to shield and care for at risk groups,

e. An assessment of the risk of secondary morbidity and mortality as a consequence of the restrictions.

2. It will also provide risk-based public health advice on what measures could be modified in the next period.

3. The Government would then consider what restrictions could be lifted, having regard to the advice of the Department of Health as well as other social and economic considerations, e.g. the potential for increased employment, relative benefits for citizens and businesses, improving national morale and wellbeing etc.

4. It is acknowledged that there is also an ongoing possibility that restrictions could be re-imposed and this process will be carried out on an ongoing basis once every 3 weeks.

As is clear from the framework described above, it is the Government rather than the Minister or Department of Health that will decide on any modifications to the current public health measures in place and those decisions will be informed by the status of the on/off trigger criteria and the public health advice received at the time that a decision is being made. The decisions of the Government are published and the guidance in operation at a point in time are available on the Government website at .

The Deputy may wish to note that all pubs, including those that serve food other than drinks, can only re-open when it is permitted to do so. All pubs, including those that serve food other than drinks, are required to be registered with the Health Service Executive in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 852/2004.  All food businesses must also have a food safety management system in place based on the principles of Hazard (Analysis & Critical Control Point (HACCP) to control the risks in their food business. Further information on these and other businesses food safety management systems has been published by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and is available at https://www.fsai.ie/faq/coronavirus.html.  Fáilte Ireland has also published guidance for the hospitality sector which is available at

The National Public Health Emergency Team has also requested the Health Protection Surveillance Centre to develop guidance on the application of existing social distancing requirements in specific, defined and controlled environments in the hospitality industry during periods of low incidence of the disease. This guidance will then be considered by the National Public Health Emergency Team on completion.  

In addition, on 9 May the “Return to Work Safely Protocol - COVID-19 Specific National Protocol for Employers and Workers” was published. It provides clear guidance to employers and to workers on the measures that must be taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. The Protocol was developed through the cooperation of the Health and Safety Authority, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, the HSE and my Department. It is designed to be used by all workplaces to adapt their procedures and practices to provide protection against the threat of COVID-19. 

The Government also agreed to bring forward actions in the remaining phases of the Roadmap and plan for four phases rather than the five originally indicated. Work is underway to consider how best to achieve this aim and more information will be made available in the coming weeks.

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