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Govt to review 8pm closing time as Taoiseach hopes NPHET advice will allow easing of restrictions

Micheál Martin says case numbers are levelling off.

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said he is hopeful that advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) will be that restrictions can be eased at the end of January.

Speaking to reporters this morning, he said the government will be looking at the possible easing of restrictions for hospitality, allowing cultural events and hospitality sectors to trade beyond 8pm.

Current restrictions are in place until 30 January.

“We’ll be looking looking at hospitality and obviously the 8pm restriction as well,” he said. 

Progress has been made in respect of Omicron and despite it being very transmissible, it is not translating into hospitalisations and ICU admissions on the same scale as previous waves, said the Taoiseach.

A new review has found that just 42% of patients in hospital with the disease have Covid-19 symptoms and almost three-quarters are not receiving oxygen therapy.

Martin paid tribute to the cultural and hospitality sector for showing a high degree of “tolerance and forbearance” in recent weeks, adding they have “kept with it” by putting on performances during the day and showing innovation around the restrictions.

“The restrictions are very severe,” Martin acknowledged.

“There will be a meeting of NPHET next week and I would hope that we will be in a position to to move forward in terms of the current restrictions, but I’m not in a position to say anything definitive,” he added, stating that he will await to hear what the public health experts say next week.

Case numbers seem to be levelling off, said the Taoiseach.

“So we are hopeful in terms of the progress we’ve made to date,” he said.

Speaking in Kildare this afternoon, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the government is focusing now less on cases and more on hospitalisations and the numbers in ICU.

He said he would like to see those numbers falling before easing restrictions.

NPHET are due to meet next Thursday. Varadkar said businesses will be told what will happen in February well in advance.

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