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Leo Varadkar says a "very cautious" approach will be taken by Cabinet on the advice of NPHET

Time limits, opening hour restrictions and social distancing rules, are possibilities to be discussed by ministers today.

Following a meeting of NPHET this morning, Cabinet will meet today at 4pm to discuss the expert recommendations.
Following a meeting of NPHET this morning, Cabinet will meet today at 4pm to discuss the expert recommendations.

Updated Aug 4th 2020, 4:57 PM

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has given “very firm” advice on the country moving to Phase 4 of reopening the country.

Speaking ahead of today’s Cabinet meeting Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said NPHET has taken a “very cautious” approach. He said it will come as a “further blow to sectors that have not yet reopened”.

Varadkar added that “it is the unfortunate truth this pandemic is still raging across the world”. 

He added that Ireland is still doing relatively well compared to countries “and we want to keep it that way”. 

His comments come after Mike Ryan, executive director with the World Health Organisation said pubs may need to re-open on a county-by-county basis depending on local Covid-19 threat levels, according to the 

Cabinet ministers are meeting today to discuss whether to give the green light to the reopening of the country under Phase 4.

It is understood that different options may be considered such as time limits on people in pubs, opening hour restrictions and social distancing rules, in order to allow publicans reopen their businesses. 

Although the Taoiseach and Tánaiste’s comments this afternoon may pour cold water over publican’s hopes that they can reopen next week.

The Cabinet decision will be communicated to the public at around 6pm.

Publicans that do not serve food have had their doors closed since March and are today seeking much-needed clarity about whether they can reopen next Monday 10 August.

If government delays the reopening, two groups representing publicans in Ireland are calling for a compensation package for their members.

Ministers have said today’s decision is a tough one to call prior to hearing the public health advice from NPHET.

Ahead of today’s Cabinet meeting, one minister said today is “hard to call”, stating that while the numbers of cases have risen in recent days, they are clusters which are traceable, adding that community transmission is very low.

Another minister said they were confident and hopeful up to the end of last week that pubs would be allowed to reopen, but now they are not so sure given the recent spikes. Reopening schools is the government’s first priority, they said.

However they added that the clusters and spikes are going to be a reality that the public are going to have to live with for some time, but the testing and tracing system is now adequate to deal with such scenarios.

Another government source said that when the pandemic began, it was about making sure hospitals and ICU were not overwhelmed, stating it was never about chasing elimination, which is impossible, even with a vaccine, they added. Today will be a “tough decision”, they added.

Meanwhile another minister said delaying the reopening yet again could be a case of “kicking the can down the road”.

Speaking on RTE’s Sarah McInerney programme today, Ryan suggested that “where there is localised community transmission, localised measures may have to be taken.”

“You can use a much more localised strategy – by county, by province, whatever it is in the Irish context – but to do that you need very localised data and a localised response capacity,” he said.

Many counties around the country have not experienced any cases for a number of weeks. 

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“The Irish Government has a very difficult decision to make, it must be taken in context of the background epidemiology, Ireland has a very low incidence, it’s worked very hard to get there and obviously Ireland will have to make a balanced decision,” said Ryan.

The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) and the Licensed Vintners’ Association (LVA) have said the sector is now at “breaking point”.

Last week, the groups called for urgent clarity to be provided about when they could reopen, stating that rosters have to be done, and stock has to be ordered.

Both groups have been critical that they have been left with less than a week to prepare if they are allowed reopen next Monday.

Cabinet will also discuss changes that need to be made to Ireland’s ‘green list’ today.

If a country is on Ireland’s travel ‘green list’, it means that if a person is flying from any country on this list, they won’t have to restrict their movements after flying into Ireland.

In the past two weeks, the rate of cases per 100,000 has risen in Ireland and other countries – raising the risk of countries like Malta and Cyprus being removed from Ireland’s green list.

Cabinet ministers will this week discuss random testing of passengers at Irish airports, and and the possibility of having to produce a negative Covid-19 test result before flying in a bid to reduce the number of cases being imported – particularly for high-risk Covid-19 areas, such as the United States and the Middle East.

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