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Cabinet set to green light restaurants reopening after NPHET recommends takeaway only in December

The Covid-19 Cabinet sub-committee met earlier this evening.

Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated Nov 26th 2020, 10:29 PM

THE CABINET COVID-19 sub-committee has given the green light for restaurants to re-open in December despite advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) to serve takeaway only. 

NPHET recommended that pubs and restaurants should only be allowed serve takeaway throughtout December.

It is now understood that the Cabinet sub-committee has given the green light for the reopening of restaurants next month.

Gastropubs are also understood to be allowed to reopen with additional restrictions in place. Further discussion on this is expected to take place tomorrow at a full Cabinet meeting.

All dining is expected to take place in controlled indoor settings.

The Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19 met this evening to consider advice from NPHET about easing Level 5 restrictions ahead of a Government announcement tomorrow.

The sub-committee is also understood to have considered allowing four households to gather at Christmas but no decision has yet been made.

As well as concerns around hospitality, it’s understood that NPHET also raised concerns around reopening religious services next week. 

The current Level 5 restrictions were due to end at midnight on 1 December, with new measures beginning on 2 December.

However, it is now understood the new restrictions will begin from the early hours of Tuesday 1 December, with current Level 5 measures ending on the night of 30 November. 


NPHET convened yesterday and finalised its advice for Government which the sub-committee considered ahead of a full Cabinet meeting tomorrow.

The sub-committee was this evening briefed by Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan, HSE CEO Paul Reid and Director General of the Central Statistics Office Pádraig Dalton. 

Sources have indicated it was a positive meeting but that is now less clear what Government will ultimately decide after considering NPHET’s advice. 

This afternoon Reid said he would provide the sub-committee with an update on the position of the health service. He said there are 269 patients with Covid-19 in hospital, with 36 of those people in ICU. 

There are outbreaks in six hospitals, with 535 staff out of work either due to a positive test result or because they are a close contact of a confirmed case. 

While Reid said the HSE would have to consider “the risks we still have to manage”, he said they would be cognisant of the health and wellbeing of society and the important role Christmas plays in terms of families and friends being able to meet one another.

The Government has already indicated that a phased approach to easing restrictions and reopening society will be taken in the lead-up to Christmas. 

A full Cabinet meeting is due to take place tomorrow with a nationwide address from Taoiseach Micheál Martin expected at around 6pm. 

It is expected that Level 5 restrictions – which have been in place since 22 October – will be lifted on 1 December and that the country will enter Level 3, with some modifications, next Wednesday. 

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar indicated yesterday that retailers, gyms and hairdressers will be among those to reopen first. 

Varadkar said it was hoped that restrictions on household visits could be eased for up to two weeks to allow people visit their friends and family around Christmas time.  

“It is the government’s objective to have family dinner on Christmas Day as normal as possible, but it’s too early to make that call yet,” he said. 

We want people to be able to meet their families and meet their friends over the Christmas period.

It is expected that museums, galleries and cinemas will reopen from 1 December under the Government’s planned exit from Level 5.

The third phase of the plan will allow household visits as well as travel between counties so that people can visit loved ones for Christmas. 

“We know people are going to do it anyway. So it’s better that we can provide for it in a safe way,” the Tánaiste said yesterday. 

“Because we’ve got the virus down to much lower levels than in Northern Ireland or in Britain, we think we’ll be able to do that for a much longer period than the five or six days they’re talking about. We hope to be able to do it for something close to two weeks,” said Varadkar. 

Cross-border travel

The Tánaiste earlier confirmed that the Government is not planning on introducing a cross-border travel ban in December. 

Varadkar added there would be restrictions on non-essential inter-county travel including cross-border traffic.

It was reported that Varadkar had told a parliamentary party meeting that crossing the border may not be advised from the Republic to Northern Ireland over Christmas once Ireland’s restrictions ease due to Covid-19 infection rates being higher in Northern Ireland.

Stormont leaders today criticised Varadkar’s “out of touch” comments about cross-border travel.

Varadkar told the Dáil today there was “no question of there being an outright travel ban between north and south”.

“It’s not under consideration, not being discussed, period,” he said.

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“We don’t have a travel ban with Poland, we’re certainly not going to have one with Northern Ireland.”

He told the Dail that when Ireland ‘s Covid-19 restrictions are relaxed somewhat as anticipated next week inter-county travel would still be restricted and would only be allowed for work, school or other essential purposes like caring for an elderly relative.

Current data

The trajectory of the virus had been on a downward trend until late last week when cases began to rise again, prompting concern from Public Health officials about an early reopening of society in early December. 

The Department of Health this evening confirmed 335 more cases of Covid-19 and three further deaths. 

A total of 269 new cases were confirmed on Wednesday and 226 new cases were confirmed on Tuesday

That is a total of 830 cases compared to 1,174 cases over the same period last week and 1,027 cases the week previously. 

Ireland’s reproductive number last week was estimated at between 0.7 and 0.9 having been at 0.6 the previous week. It’s still estimated at between 0.7 and 0.9. 

Ireland’s national incidence rate is 105.5 cases per 100,000 of the population on a 14-day rolling average, according to data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre – compared to 116.5 on this day last week and 135.5 the week previous.

- With reporting by Michelle Hennessy, Christina Finn and Orla Dwyer

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