‘Plan for 50 wedding guests’, Varadkar tells marrying couples

The Government has “not explored” checking vaccination status of wedding guests to allow numbers allowed to attend increase, the Tánaiste has said.

The Government had targeted an increase to 100 guests in August, but the rising case numbers and concern around the Delta variant led to Leo Varadkar warning people to plan on the basis that numbers will remain at the current 50.

Mr Varadkar told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show that the idea of allowing more people into wedding receptions if they are vaccinated had not been discussed by the Government.

“At the moment, the limit on the number of who can attend a wedding is 50, and there isn’t a requirement to check that people are vaccinated or not. 

In the pure public health terms, you could allow people to attend weddings if they’re fully vaccinated. But the issue then immediately arises as to what you do with people who are not vaccinated. Would they then be uninvited? 

“And what would happen with children, would they be uninvited too? I just don’t think anybody wants to go down that route, and I might be wrong, but I don’t get the sense that anybody particularly wants to do that.

“I always hate to be the bearer of bad news but what I said yesterday was the best advice that I can give people. The current rule is, 50 is the maximum that you can have at a wedding. We did indicate that that might increase to 100 and August if things were going in the right direction. With the rising case numbers, they’re not quite frankly.

‘Plan for 50’

“So what I’m saying to people, the best advice is to plan for 50. And bear in mind that you know everybody wants their wedding to be a memorable day, a day that they can remember in a joyful way, not an unpleasant way for the rest of their lives. 

Nobody wants their wedding to be a place where there’s a Covid outbreak.”

Covid passes will checked on entry to indoor hospitality the Tánaiste said, adding this was “an additional check” for businesses, but one which they are capable of doing.

Mr Varadkar said reports of clashes at Cabinet on the drafting of regulations for indoor dining had been “a bit exaggerated”. 

He said Attorney General Paul Gallagher had raised concerns about the clarity of instructions he had seen around the drafting of regulations. Mr Varadkar said his Department of Enterprise and the Departments of Tourism and Health were now “working together”.

“The Attorney General, and everyone in the Cabinet is keen to make sure that we have the regulations in place before Monday. 

“The Attorney General is one of the hardest-working people I’ve ever met. He will literally stay up all night and write regulations and write legislation if he is asked to, but he needs to hear instructions from Government departments. 

“What he’s saying to the Department of Health and my own Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Catherine Martin’s Department of Tourism is that he needs clear instructions. We actually had a meeting at six o’clock yesterday, and we’re all working together to get this done.”

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said there can be ‘no doubt’ that Ireland is in a fourth wave of Covid and the country was ‘right to be concerned’. File picture: PA

The Tánaiste said the decision to allow under 18s into hospitality settings was “a calculated risk”.

What we’re trying to do is ensure that the risk is lower. We took a view that we didn’t want to separate parents from children. We appreciate it is a calculated risk, but we think that risk is low.”

He said seat distancing, masks and other measures meant it was a “much safer picture than Christmas”.

Fourth wave

Mr Varadkar said there can be “no doubt” that Ireland is in a fourth wave of Covid and the country was “right to be concerned”. 

He said it was hard to say when Ireland would see the peak of the Delta wave of the variant. He said the Delta wave would be a tenth as fatal as previous waves. 

However, he said if cases reach a “very high” base, this would lead to larger numbers of hospitalisations and ICU admissions.

He apologised to those who have experienced difficulties with the Covid cert helpline but said additional resources would be deployed. He said 17,000 certs had been sent out with issues around the ‘fada’, which “shouldn’t have happened”.

‘Name and shame’ employers who make it difficult for staff to get vaccinated

In the same interview, Mr Varadkar called on staff to “name and shame” any employers who are making it difficult for them to take time off to get vaccinated.

He urged such employers to “have a heart, basically.” 

Any employers who were not flexible with their staff should be named, he said, as it was “common sense” to allow staff to get vaccinated. 

He said he understood there were exceptions when staff received a vaccination appointment at short notice, but in most cases, there was sufficient advance notice to allow changing of work shifts.

Employers really should let their staff take time off work to get vaccinated and not have their wages docked, he said.

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