Nphet clears way for extensive easing of Covid-19 restrictions, including end to 8pm curfew

Cabinet will meet on Friday to consider timeframe for implementation

The State’s public health team has cleared the way for the easing of almost all Covid-19 restrictions over the coming days.

The National Public Health Emergency Team met on Thursday and agreed to recommend the removal of the 8pm closing time for hospitality and the end of the requirement for a Covid-19 pass to gain access to pubs and restaurants.

The digital pass will still be needed for international travel, however.

The team also cleared the way for the removal of crowd limits as well as an end to restrictions on permitted household guests. A phased return to work has also been recommended in order to give workplaces time to organise their own individual public health measures, a source said.

Some of the only restrictions to remain will be around the requirement to wear a mask in retail and on public transport, as well as existing public health measures in places likes schools.

A source said that the recommendations went further than many in Government expected and represented a significant acceleration in terms of the path out of the pandemic.

The Nphet members were understood to have discussed how the Covid-19 digital pass need no longer be required for access to hospitality given the high levels of either infection or vaccination in the population at present.

Live venues and hospitality venues may return to normal capacity while restrictions around nightclubs are also expected to be lifted.

A Government source said the main outstanding item will be a decision on what dates the various restrictions will be lifted by. Cabinet will meet on Friday to discuss the recommendations and decide how to proceed.

It is expected that restrictions on the 8pm curfew for example, could be lifted from as early as this weekend although sources said the Government is keen to give the hospitality sector time to prepare.

Reacting to news of the recommendations, Licensed Vintners Association chief executive Donall O’Keeffe, said: “The news coming from Nphet this evening has been eagerly awaited by the entire hospitality and late night sectors for a long, long time.

“Hopefully the Government will now move swiftly and there will be no delays to the full reopening and the scrapping of hospitality restrictions.

“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,” he said.

The Restaurants’ Association of Ireland and Vintners’ Federation of Ireland also welcomed the changes recommended by Nphet in its letter and both called for the extension of opening hours to proceed on Friday evening.