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THIS EVENING THE Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced the government’s plan for exiting Level 5.

He outlined the measures that will be in place over the Christmas period which will allow people to visit and spend time with family or friends. 

  • The country will move to Level 3 from 1 December, with modifications in place.
  • Retailers, gyms and non-essential services like hairdressers will be allowed to open from Tuesday.
  • NPHET told the government’s subcommittee on Covid-19 yesterday that pubs and restaurants should only be allowed to serve takeaway in December.
  • Despite the public health advice, Cabinet approved the re-opening of indoor dining in restaurants from next Friday, with enhanced restrictions in place.
  • Restrictions on inter-county travel and the ban on household visits will remain in place until 18 December.

Cabinet was due to meet at about 2pm so hopefully they are all sitting down now to thrash out the final details of the plan, which sounds like it will be more complicated than any we’ve had so far.

It also sounds like this plan will be the government’s biggest deviation from the public health advice. 

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) told the government’s Covid-19 subcommittee that a choice would have to be made between re-opening hospitality and allowing household visits.

They recommended pubs and restaurants remain closed to customers, offering a takeaway service only throughout December.

However the subcommittee decided restaurants and gastro-pubs should be allowed to open back up, with further measures in place. This may include smaller numbers allowed to mix and a shorter time limit than one hour and 45 minutes.

When it comes to household visits, it is likely the government will announce the ban will remain in place until later in the month, possibly as late as 18 December. 

At this time the restriction on inter-county travel is also expected to be lifted.

It is not yet clear how many people and how many households will be allowed to mix on Christmas Day and over the days around it. 

Last night the discussion is understood to have focused on three households, plus your own, with a max of six people. However, it is believed Cabinet might opt for a max of ten people.

Sources have said those in government are of the view that people are going to meet up for Christmas, no matter what NPHET or the government say, and it is better to be realistic about that prospect, and try and manage it, rather than trying to stop it. 

If Cabinet managed to sit down at the table on time at 2pm, they’ll  have around four hours before the Taoiseach is expected to address the nation at 6pm.

That will give people plenty of time to digest whatever he announces before the Late Late Toy Show at 9.35pm.

And this year, we need the joy of the Toy Show more than ever. It might even be the best one yet:

 

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly seemed positive as he headed into the Cabinet meeting:

Some newlyweds also stopped by Government Buildings, congratulations Cathal and Mark!

Some leaks coming out of Cabinet already – no hugging on Christmas Day. Also people will be advised to wear a mask when cooking and serving Christmas dinner:

The government is set to announce retailers, gyms and hairdressers and barbers will be the first businesses allowed to re-open from next week.

And some stores are already letting their customers know they’ll be back:

We’ve got an update from our Political Correspondent Christina Finn, who will be down at Government Buildings all evening:

“The Cabinet meeting began at 2pm, but there are no real surprises – much of what was expected is to come into effect.

“All retail, museums, gyms, tennis courts, golf courses are to open from next Tuesday. Wednesday was originally mooted, but that has changed. From next Friday, the hospitality section of the reopening will kick in with restaurants and pubs that serve food to re-open, but wet pubs will have to remain shut.

“Travel restrictions will ease in the days before Christmas, on 18 December, when home visits for up to three households will be advised. Travel advice will also be relaxed for inter-county travel

“The government want to make the advice clear and simple for people, with sources stating that there will be a lot of scenarios for people over the holidays, in which they will have to use their own judgement. Government advice will also say if you plan on having people over to your house, you should try to limit your contacts as much as possible beforehand.

“And in terms of practical advice, they are advising against hugging, shaking hands, and advising to limit the number of people in the kitchen. They want people to make sure air is circulating in the house, so people should open windows and doors if they have people over, to allow for fresh air to circulate.”

Christina said senior government sources have said they realise they are taking a “calculated risk” but have argued the progress made since entering Level 5 restrictions has enabled the relaxation of the rules.

“Government is of the view that people are going to meet up for Christmas, no matter what NPHET or the government say, stating that it is better to be realistic about that prospect, and try and manage it, rather than trying to stop it.”

In terms of sharp disagreements between the NPHET and government, Christina says it was largely due to indoor dining, but it is expected to be subject to strict regulation and inspection.

NPHET also wanted Mass to be allowed to resume for only two weeks of the month at the end of December but it is likely the government will allow masses from next week.

The Cabinet meeting is now finished so the Taoiseach has two hours to prepare some clear communication on all of this.

One of the big questions for people about this plan will be about how many of their friends and family they’ll be able to see over Christmas – and particularly on Christmas Day

It looks like there’ll be no maximum number of people for household visits (that doesn’t mean you should go wild though), but the advise will be two households on top of your own. That will be a tough one for bigger families:

More details here from our Political Correspondent Christina Finn on home visits. 

Sources have said that household visits will be a personal choice for people to make with people urged to follow health advice in terms of ventilation and social distancing. 

Ideally, no more than three households will meet at once, but there is an understanding that (especially at Christmas) the situation is different for each group of people.

If you have a large family who come together at Christmas time, it comes down to a personal decision on the numbers gathering this year. 

Wet pubs (pubs that don’t sell food) will still be allowed to sell takeaway pints under the new set of restrictions. 

Most of the details of the announcement have been well-flagged by now, and the Taoiseach Micheál Martin is expected to give his state of the nation address at around 6pm.

Preparations are ongoing at Government Buildings at the moment for the Taoiseach’s address which will be aired on RTÉ television. 

It’s reporter Orla Dwyer here to cover the address as it happens. We’ll have you sorted throughout the evening with stories explaining what the new measures will mean for you. 

While we wait for the Taoiseach, a quick reminder that you can support our journalism by making a one-off or monthly contribution to the site. 

Our supporters ensure we can keep providing open access to things like factchecking, reporting, analysing, investigating and explaining. thejournal.ie/contribute/

 

The Taoiseach Micheál Martin has begun his address to the nation this evening to confirm the latest Covid-19 restrictions.

He said it has been six weeks since he last spoke to the nation. 

He said at that stage, it was essential to go further than Level 3 restrictions to help stop the spread of the virus. 

The “encouraging news” this evening is that the sacrifices and efforts to reduce the spread of the virus are working, the Taoiseach has said. 

“This cannot and will not be the kind of Christmas we are used to,” Micheál Martin said. 

He said we can soon enjoy some respite from the hardships of 2020, and in particular the past six weeks. 

The country will move to Level 3 from 1 December, with some modifications in place. 

Among the new measures confirmed this evening, the Taoiseach said museums, galleries, cinemas and libraries will reopen on 1 December with restrictions in place

Restaurants and gastropubs may open for indoor dining, again with restrictions in place.

He said we all have individual personal responsibility and people can make this reopening “sustainable”.  

In a move not flagged ahead of time, the use of face coverings will now be recommended in busy outdoor spaces where there is a significant congregation of people, crowded workplaces and places of worship.

Speaking to children getting ready to watch the Late Late Toy Show later this evening, the Taoiseach issued a message saying: “I know that this is a very special time of year for you.” 

He said children’s strength and the way they have coped with the challenge of Covid-19 has been inspiring. 

You are the future of this country and we all want to make sure that you have the opportunity to grow.

He wrapped up the speech with a quote from Roald Dahl, the works of whom the Toy Show is themed around this year. 

For full details of the latest restrictions, check out our main piece here.

That’s all from us for today’s liveblog, keep an eye on the site throughout this evening for a breakdown of all the new measures coming into place over the next month.

Have a good evening!

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