The Government may ask the public to limit their close contacts to family only over the Christmas period, as it examines ways to prevent a further surge in Covid-19 cases when the latest severe social restrictions are lifted.
Officials are considering which “modified” measures could come into force from December 1st, when the six-week Level 5 lockdown is due to end.
Among them are social restrictions under which the public would be asked to keep their contacts “family orientated”, particularly over Christmas.
Restaurants are expected to be given the green light to reopen but there is growing pessimism about pubs that do not serve food being allowed to do so.
Despite a significant fall in confirmed cases since the Level 5 restrictions were implemented three weeks ago, two senior sources said the curbs would not be eased before next month.
The hope is that this would result in further suppression of infections and bring the reproductive rate of the disease down further. A further 362 Covid-19 cases and two deaths were reported yesterday.
Some senior figures are hopeful that the State could step back to Level 2 restrictions next month, which would see the vast majority of businesses and venues reopen and allow people to travel outside their county.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin yesterday said stepping back to Level 3 restrictions from December 1st was “a target” and that officials were examining if it was possible to ease those for certain sectors.
The Fine Gael parliamentary party last night discussed the economic and social damage that could be caused by the State going in and out of lockdowns. They agreed to seek time in the Oireachtas to map out a plan for the lifting of the Level 5 restrictions.
Fianna Fáil members urged the Taoiseach to consider rolling back to some form of Level 2 curbs to allow people to travel over Christmas. They called for clarity to allow families to make plans for the holidays.
A stand-off between parties in the Northern Executive over the planned unwinding of Covid-19 restrictions from midnight on Thursday continues, with talks between the parties to resume on Thursday morning.