Tanaiste (Deputy Leader) Leo Varadkar said on Thursday that the government is “aiming for” a return of indoor dining and hospitality on Monday, July 26, pending the passage of new legislation.

“So I spoke to Minister Donnelly about that today actually and we are, you know we're getting things in place,” Varadkar told reporters during a press briefing on Thursday.

“It looks like we're going to have an app reader that restaurateurs and publicans can use to verify that the COVID cert is valid and so on and a lot of work is being done on that.

“And we’re targeting Monday [July] 26, really because it [the legislation] has to go through the Seanad, we need to let the President time to consider the bills.

“And we need to get some regulations and a few things like that in place so the day we're aiming for is Monday, July 26 [to reopen]."

Varadkar announcing the “target” of July 26 came just hours after the Health (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill 2021 passed the Dáil in the late hours of Wednesday, and will now be considered in the Seanad.

The bill seeks to provide for “a robust and enforceable system of verification of the health status of certain persons, including vaccination or recovery status,” otherwise known as vaccine certificates, in order to return to indoor activities such as dining. It additionally provides for the extension of Ireland’s mandatory hotel quarantine scheme for arrivals from designated states through October 9.

The bill passed with a vote of 74 in favor to 68 against. 

Prior to the voting on the bill on Wednesday evening, a motion was introduced by the Rural Independents group which called upon the government to “immediately allow for the reopening of all indoor hospitality to everyone, whether vaccinated or not and if approved, all indoor hospitality could be reopened from next Thursday.”

While the motion won the support of Sinn Féin, it was ultimately defeated with a vote of 86 against to 43 in favor.

Amidst Wednesday night's proceedings in the Dáil, hundreds of people gathered in Dublin to protest the ongoing restrictions, arguing that vaccine certifications for indoor hospitality would create a "two-tier society." Protests continued on Thursday outside Aras an Uachtarain, the president's residence, in Phoenix Park, Dublin, urging President Higgins not to sign the bill.

July 15, 2021: Protesters outside Aras an Uachtarain in Phoenix Park, Dublin urging President Higgins to not sign the new bill. (RollingNews.ie). (RollingNews.ie)

July 15, 2021: Protesters outside Aras an Uachtarain in Phoenix Park, Dublin urging President Higgins to not sign the new bill. (RollingNews.ie). (RollingNews.ie)

After Wednesday's votes, Varadkar said in the Dáil on Thursday that the pandemic is “not over.”

"We're entering a new phase of the pandemic. We have vaccines now that have weakened the connection between cases and hospitalizations and deaths, but has not broken it, and we have a virus now that is more infectious than ever before."

Varadkar said that people who are not fully vaccinated are "at greater risk than ever before in this pandemic because this virus [the Delta variant] is so transmissible." He urged non-vaccinated people to take extra care in the coming weeks.

“People who are unvaccinated are more at risk over the next few weeks than at any point in this pandemic. It is not over.”

—Tánaiste @LeoVaradkar pic.twitter.com/J34shoPdHn

— Fine Gael (@FineGael) July 15, 2021

While indoor hospitality hangs in the balance, the Republic of Ireland is set to reopen for international travel this Monday, July 19. The country remained largely open to travelers since the pandemic took hold, though testing and quarantine upon arrival requirements were in place in varying degrees.

From Monday, testing and self-quarantine requirements will be scrapped for EU and some non-EU arrivals who can provide valid proof of full vaccination. You can learn more about the new entry requirements in place in the Republic of Ireland from July 19 here.