Covid-19: TDs call for immediate lifting of 8pm hospitality curfew

Government facing battle with own TDs to keep restrictions for another fortnight

The Government is facing resistance from some of its own TDs as it seeks to keep Covid-19 restrictions in place for another fortnight.

Some Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael backbenchers, arguing the worst of the Omicron variant surge has passed, are calling for immediate steps to extend the 8pm closing time for pubs and restaurants.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) meets on Thursday but senior Coalition sources believe there is little prospect of officials recommending a relaxation of measures before they expire on January 31st.

Hospital Report

“If this progress continues we’ll be in a good place,” said a high-level Government figure, adding there were hopeful signs “we have at least reached the peak” of the Omicron surge.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told RTÉ the Government was “coming to the point where we need to move on”, as he held out the prospect of a full reopening of society as measures are lifted in spring and summer.

Normal service

But Fine Gael’s Michael Ring said it was vital for pubs and restaurants to return to normal service. “It’s time to review it now. People want to get back to normality, to get back living. Enough is enough.”

Fianna Fáil’s Willie O’Dea said the 8pm closing time should be extended immediately, instead of waiting until February. “I’d like to see it lifted sooner. If they still wanted the pubs to close at 10pm rather than 8pm it wouldn’t make a significant difference to the fight against the spread of the pandemic.”

With outbreaks rising in residential care facilities, private nursing home owners called on the Government to stay “ahead of” international guidance on fourth vaccine doses for older people. Nursing Homes Ireland said fourth doses must “absolutely” be considered in light of added protection they are giving older people in Israel.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said a fourth dose was not a recommendation “at this time” but was being kept under review.