The three coalition leaders will meet at noon in government buildings to consider recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team on easing Covid-19 restrictions, ahead of a full Cabinet meeting at 3 p.m.
NPHET has given the go-ahead for most of the restrictions to end and, as it has not specified any timetable, has left it to Cabinet to decide how quickly this will happen.
NPHET told the government last night it was in favor of lifting almost all Covid-19 restrictions and the analysis paved the way for Cabinet to act quickly.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Prime Time programme, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe last night said it was ‘reasonable to expect’ Ireland would leave Covid-19 regulations sooner than this what one would have expected just a few days ago.
The earlier closing time for the hospitality sector was widely expected to be lifted from next week, but ministers could now lift all other Covid-19 restrictions on guests at the same time.
Late night entertainment could also be back much sooner than expected.
Other measures, such as limits on home visits, capacity limits for sporting events or weddings, could also be dropped quickly.
However, not everything will go quickly.
Return to work in the office should be staggered; the wearing of the mask will continue; Covid certificates will be required for international travel and people will continue to be required to self-isolate if they show symptoms of Covid-19.
Once ministers have made their collective decision, Taoiseach Micheál Martin is expected to deliver a televised address tonight and outline the government’s short to medium term pandemic plan.
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The Restaurants Association of Ireland has called on the government to allow all hotel businesses to trade as normal from tonight.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, RAI chief executive Adrian Cummins said companies that have the ability to fully operationalize should be given the opportunity to do so.
He said the hospitality industry had been “flattened” over the past two years due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“Today is a good day,” he said, and called for a two-month extension to the end of Covid supports for hospitality businesses on February 1.
The general manager of the Slieve Russell Hotel in Co Cavan, said the lifting of restrictions is extremely important for the hotel and for weddings.
Speaking on the same programme, Tony Walker said the easing of the measures will alleviate the uncertainty which is currently in place and is “extremely important”, particularly for a border county.
He said 45% of couples who marry at the Slieve Russell Hotel are from Northern Ireland, where there is no cap on the number of weddings at the moment.
“It’s been a challenge for us” with couples choosing venues in NI instead.
He said for couples, whose weddings are usually booked well in advance, this lifting of restrictions will give them confidence to plan.
The Department of Health yesterday reported an additional 5,523 PCR-confirmed cases of Covid-19, along with 5,048 positive antigen tests recorded through the HSE portal.
There were 896 people hospitalized with Covid-19 and, of these, 90 patients are being treated in ICUs.