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new restrictions

Cabinet agrees 8pm curfew for pubs and restaurants over the Christmas period

The measures were agreed this evening.

LAST UPDATE | 17 Dec 2021

Note: For the latest developments on the government announcement check our homepage

CABINET HAS AGREED that pub and restaurant closing times should be 8pm over the Christmas period.

Ministers today rejected NPHET’s recommendation to close hospitality at 5pm.

The 8pm curfew will kick in on Monday.

It was also agreed that the number of spectators attending sporting events would be limited to 50% capacity or a maximum of 5,000 people.

The recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) come as the HSE  warns that the health service is at “extremely high-risk levels” due to the spread of the Omicron variant.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin travelled back from Brussels so he could attend the Covid sub-committee and full Cabinet meeting this afternoon.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar tweeted this morning that there are 420 people in hospital today with the virus – which is reduction of 40% from the peak a few weeks ago.

“We were winning the fight against Delta. Now Omicron is coming when we are at our most vulnerable – winter, Christmas, flu season. It’s a cruel virus.

“We’re all feeling anger, frustration, dismay, depression but that cannot deflect us from making the right decisions to keep our people safe.”

Hospitality restrictions

CEO of the Restaurants Association of Ireland Adrian Cummins said that the 5pm move would be devastating for the hospitality sector.

“It’s a shock to our industry, it’s devastating news to our sector at a critical time, a number of days ahead of Christmas, not just for business owners but for staff as well,” said Cummins, speaking on Morning Ireland.

Cummins called on the government to deliver a plan for hospitality to ensure that the sector can remain viable.

TDs and senators have been vocal this morning about their anger at the new recommendations. It is understood that politicians have been in touch with the Taoiseach to voice their concerns. 

Fianna Fáil Senators Malcolm Byrne and Eugene Murphy said earlier a 5pm close for pubs and restaurants cannot be countenanced.

While Fine Gael TD Brendan Griffin tweeted: “The 5pm suggestion and the way it has been floated has caused enormous worry and stress to so many people and is an insult to our business people and workers in hospitality… After nearly 2 years of this, the vast majority of people know how to reduce risk and stay safe”. 

A number of politicians in Leinster House this morning told The Journal that the recommendations are “madness” given that hospitalisations have reduced by 40% in the last three weeks.

There is also significant concern around the Cabinet table over NPHET’s latest advice. The CMO met with the three party leaders on Monday, where it is understood there was no mention of the proposed early evening closing time. 

While the government was burnt last year for opening up hospitality before Christmas, government sources state that it is “completely different” this time around as we had no vaccines then and the government didn’t know officially that the Alpha variant was in the country. 

Another senior source stated that the government had been placed in the “usual dilemma”.

If the government don’t side with NPHET advice and the hospitals are overrun, then the “blame” will be placed on them, they said, adding that this would only heighten the chance that NPHET would come back with even stricter restrictions in the new year. 

Hospital capacity

HSE Chief Executive Paul Reid said today that even under the most optimistic scenarios around the Omicron variant, hospital services will be put under pressure.

He said that while modeling is presented to the Government directly, the most optimistic modeling shows the healthcare system under pressures similar to those seen in January.

“From our perspective, we would have had strong indications in terms of what that modeling would mean in terms of cases what had modeling would mean potentially in terms of hospitalisations,” said Reid, speaking to Newstalk Breakfast.

“Indications of an optimistic model of potentially bringing us to numbers that we had in January of this year, which was well over 2,020 people in hospital and 200 people in ICU in an optimistic scenario.

Even in those optimistic models, it puts our hospitals under severe threat.

Reid said that a range of actions had been taken to protect the health service, like utilising private hospitals for surge capacity and elective care.

“We are taking a range of actions, separate to wherever actions the government take in relation to restrictions, we particularly are taking a range of actions to protect the health system again further,” said Reid

According to Reid, by the end of the year, there will have been over 2.2 million Covid-19 booster jabs administered, with those going primarily to people over 50, the medically vulnerable and people who are immunocompromised.

With reporting by Daragh Brophy

Christina Finn and Tadgh McNally
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