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Cabinet to meet today to discuss further Christmas restrictions as NPHET announces Covid 'third wave'

The Covid-19 sub-committee met yesterday evening to discuss growing concerns.

Image: Sam Boal

CABINET WILL MEET this morning to discuss bringing forward restrictions before New Year’s Eve. 

Coalition leaders met yesterday evening to discuss the growing concerns over the rise in Covid-19 cases. The Cabinet sub-committee on coronavirus, made up of the Taoiseach and senior ministers, was also convened. 

Yesterday, the National Public Health Emergency Team announced 727 new cases of Covid in Ireland, with no new deaths. 

Hospitalisations stand at 241, with ICU numbers now at 29.

The chair of the NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group Professor Philip Nolan said the country is “clearly now in a third wave of this pandemic”.

The Cabinet sub-committee are understood to have decided to recommend that gastro pubs and restaurants should shut by mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve. 

The full Cabinet will also decide today whether to re-introduce the inter-county travel ban earlier than 6 January.

It is understood that inter-country travel may not be permitted after 26 December, but this will be discussed further today.

The restriction on inter-county travel was only lifted at the weekend, along with the ban on household visits, in order to allow families to come together over the Christmas period.

Government sources indicated on Friday night that inter-county travel would remain in place until 6 January – however, it’s widely expected now that Cabinet could be set to do a u-turn on that decision today.

While government sources also briefed on Friday that restaurants and gastro pubs were set to remain open until 30 December, some ministers believed Christmas Eve would be a “natural” point to close.

In terms of household visits, the guidance on these will also be up for further discussion by Cabinet today.

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Current guidance in place for Christmas states that people can meet up with up to two other households in their home or garden.

Meanwhile, it is believed that the government wants to keep non-essential retail and gyms open.

Government sources said this will safeguard jobs and preserve peoples’ mental health during what will be a challenging period.

They noted that the rise in cases would have been seeded two weeks ago, with little expectation that they are set to fall before January. 

It is believed to be the government’s view that the restrictions will be reviewed two weeks into January when Christmas mixing should have dissipated and numbers might begin to taper off.

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