New hospitality and visit limits likely for December 30th, inter-county travel to end by January 6th

Government expected to reject Nphet advice which calls for new measures from December 28th

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan says  ‘the country simply cannot cope with this level of infection as we head into Christmas week.’ Above,   shoppers on Grafton Street  in Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan says ‘the country simply cannot cope with this level of infection as we head into Christmas week.’ Above, shoppers on Grafton Street in Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Restaurants and food-serving pubs will have to close for all but deliveries and takeaways from December 30th under plans for new post-Christmas restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The day before New Year’s Eve is understood to be the Government’s preferred date for the imposition of new restrictions on restaurants and gastropubs following advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) to introduce new measures to reduce coronavirus infections.

The Government plans to reject Nphet’s advice to prohibit inter-county travel after Christmas but to allow people to continue travel outside their county as planned up to January 6th.

From December 30th, there will new restrictions on household visits as people will be asked to permit visits from no more than one other household, down from the two currently permitted under a relaxation of measures introduced on Friday to allow visits over the Christmas period.

New restrictions will be introduced ahead of New Year’s Eve to reduce mixing when people traditionally gather in numbers for house parties and celebrations in restaurants and pubs.

The plans are still subject to Cabinet approval when the Government meets on Tuesday to consider Nphet’s call for public restrictions to be escalated.

In a letter to the Government on Thursday, Nphet recommended “Level 3 plus” restrictions from December 28th under which people would stay in their county and both restaurants and gastropubs would close except for deliveries and takeaways .

Infection across ages

In response to rising infections, Nphet raised concerns about it increasing across all age cohorts, in contrast to the second wave where new cases were mostly among younger people initially, and about the risks of a further spread of the virus with family get-togethers over Christmas.

Hospital Report

Confirmed cases in hospital Confirmed cases in ICU
536 110

Senior political sources say privately that the “Level 3 plus” restrictions could be in place until the vaccine rollout begins to have an effect.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said on Friday the Government was “very minded” to accept the Nphet advice and a number of senior Government sources said that they were now preparing to implement the new restrictions in the days after Christmas.

There are no plans for the Cabinet to meet over the weekend despite calls for an early decision on the proposed new restrictions. However, both the Cabinet and Nphet are scheduled to meet over the Christmas period to monitor the situation, with another Cabinet meeting scheduled for December 29th.

The State’s vaccine task force is due to meet on Sunday to discuss plans to begin vaccinations in the expectation that the Pfizer vaccine will be approved for use by European regulators next week.

Mr Martin confirmed that Nphet was “proposing significant restrictions on hospitality before New Year’s Eve”.

Hospitality sector

“Government is minded to go with that recommendation, but Government has to discuss this and we’ll decide ultimately on Tuesday,” he said.

“But certainly given the rising numbers over the last week – and they will increase again today – we are very minded to accept the advice that Nphet has given us in terms of bringing forward that date before New Year’s Eve, which will involve additional restrictions on hospitality,” said Mr Martin.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan: “The country simply cannot cope with this level of infection as we head into Christmas week.” Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins
Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan: “The country simply cannot cope with this level of infection as we head into Christmas week.” Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins

“That is very serious for the hospitality sector, that I acknowledge, and Government stands ready to support the hospitality sector during this very, very difficult period,” added the Taoiseach.

Mr Martin was speaking after a virtual meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council, a forum for exchanges between members of the Cabinet and their counterparts in the Stormont Executive.

The press conference was market by evidence of division in the Executive, with First Minister Arlene Foster criticising Sinn Féin for the Bobby Storey funeral last summer which she said had undermined the power-sharing administration’s authority to impose Covid restrictions.

Her remarks came after Sinn Féin deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill accused the DUP of ignoring public health advice around lockdown decisions last month.

Nphet reported a further 582 confirmed cases in the State on Friday, the highest daily total since November 5th, as well as six more deaths from Covid-19.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said “the situation is getting worse more rapidly than we expected. The country simply cannot cope with this level of infection as we head into Christmas week.”

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