Exiting Level 5: Ministers to push for reopening of shops, restaurants and churches next week

Cabinet sources say Ministers will push for reopening of shops, restaurants and churches

There is a growing sense amongst Ministers that pubs not serving food will not reopen this year. Photograph: Getty Images

There is a growing sense amongst Ministers that pubs not serving food will not reopen this year. Photograph: Getty Images

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Ministers will on Tuesday push for the “greatest possible” easing of coronavirus restrictions across the Irish economy and society next week as the Government deliberates on how to exit Level 5 restrictions.

Cabinet sources across all three parties say Ministers will push for the reopening of shops, restaurants and churches from next week onwards, alongside an easing of travel restrictions at a later stage in December.

The leaders of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party met on Monday night, and agreed that the country is on track to move out of Level 5 restrictions. However, sources say no final decisions were made.

The Cabinet will hold its first meeting of the week on Tuesday morning, and Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he would be looking to get “an assessment from individual Ministers and their perspective” on easing restrictions.

A number of Cabinet sources said they would push for the resumption of indoor dining in restaurants from next Tuesday, while one Minister said they would argue that pubs have had “a really tough year” and should be part of the considerations.

Despite this there is a growing sense amongst Ministers that pubs not serving food will not reopen this year.

Government officials are continuing to work on plans that would see a staged exit from Level 5 restrictions which would effectively be “Level 3 with modifications”, including a change later next month to allow people to move from county to county.

The potential date for this particular measure has not yet been finalised, and will likely be discussed further on Tuesday.

Officials are also understood to be examining a recent Thanksgiving-related spike in Covid-19 cases in Canada, and will closely watch the outcome of Thanksgiving in the US this week.

Deliberations

The Government will make a decision on either Thursday or Friday on how to exit the six-week lockdown after hearing advice from the State’s National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

Asked about the Government’s deliberations on how to exit the lockdown on December 1st, Mr Martin said on Monday it had looked at how the virus spread in August, September and October.

He said “super-spreader events” such as gatherings and congregations, including events with alcohol, have been shown to spread the virus.

Restrictions on visitors to households “seems to have had an impact, so we need to bear that in mind as we move through December”, he added.

Meanwhile the chairman of the Government’s Covid-19 vaccine taskforce, Prof Brian MacCraith, has told the Taoiseach that they hope to have a strategy on distributing vaccines ready by December 11th.

The first meeting of the taskforce on Monday heard that business, supply chain and project management experts have been engaged to help develop arrangements for sourcing and distributing any vaccine that is approved within the EU.

Confirmed cases

No further deaths of people with Covid-19 were reported by Nphet on Monday. The total number of virus-related deaths in the pandemic remains at 2,022.

Another 252 confirmed cases of the disease were reported, bringing to 70,711 the total number of cases in the Republic.

This was the lowest daily case figure since September 26th, although the figures on Monday are often lower than during the rest of the week.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan declined to be drawn on Monday evening on what recommendations Nphet would make later this week, but said the more progress was made in reducing cases, “the more choice we’ll have” in terms of easing restrictions.

There have been 20 new workplace outbreaks in the past week, the briefing heard, and 121 investigations into workplace outbreaks remain open.

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