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NPHET advice paves way for early scrapping of almost all Covid restrictions

NPHET met today to discuss Ireland’s Covid-19 measures.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan.
Image: Leah Farrell

NPHET HAS ADVISED the Cabinet that it supports almost all of Ireland’s Covid-19 restrictions being removed.

The National Public Health Emergency Team met this afternoon to discuss Ireland’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly this evening, Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, indicated that he supports a wide range of coronavirus measures being relaxed.

The CMO said there’s no longer a public health rationale for the majority of measures that are currently in place.

Government sources said the advice is positive for reopening shuttered aspects of the economy and relaxing Covid distancing rules.

It’s understood that almost all current Covid-19 hospitality restrictions – including the 8pm pub closing time, attendance limits at events and the use of digital covid certs – have been given the green light to be stood down.

However, the exact dates on which the measures are rescinded has yet to be decided.

Guidance regarding household visits was also earmarked for removal. But mask wearing, the covid cert for international travel and isolation rules for those who have symptoms of the coronavirus disease will remain in place. 

The leaders of the three government parties will meet tomorrow to assess the advice. The Cabinet will then meet for further discussions before the Taoiseach makes an announcement.

Finance minister Paschal Donohoe told RTÉ’s Prime Time programme that it is reasonable to expect that the state will be able to exit regulations at a faster pace than would have looked likely a number of weeks ago.

“What we have done at all points in this pandemic is been guided by public health advice. We have looked to deploy timings that get the balance right between the needs to our economy and society and that of public health, and that is what we will continue to do,” Donohoe said.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he intends to tomorrow evening give a “clear and comprehensive statement about what lies ahead both in the short term and in the medium term”.

“I think we can look forward to an earlier lifting of restrictions than we might have anticipated,” Martin added.

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar “we are now moving into a different phase, into a different chapter of managing this pandemic”.

Due to the level of immunity in society now and because the Omicron variant is much less severe the Government is set to review its current guidelines around schools and workplaces.

‘It’s a reasonable view that we will have to look at all our guidelines again. So there will be an NPHET meeting today, there’ll be a Cabinet meeting on Friday and on foot of that we expect to be able to ease restrictions.

“And of course on foot of that, because of the change in the balance of risk that then allows us to update our guidelines not just in relation to schools, but also in relation to workplaces and we would intend to do that,” he said.

Following reports of NPHET’s advice, the Restaurant’s Association of Ireland called on the government to allow all hospitality businesses trade as normal from tomorrow.

The comments were echoed by Donall O’Keeffe of the Licensed Vintners Association.

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“Hospitality is ready and waiting to open our doors this weekend. If the Government gives the green light then the recovery of the hospitality and night time sectors could begin as early as Friday night,” O’Keeffe said.

Padraig Cribben of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland said: “After almost two years of lockdowns and closures our members are ready to fully open from Friday. There’s no need to wait any longer, all restrictions should be removed this weekend.”

About the author:

Christina Finn & Céimin Burke

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