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'step too far' Nphet recommends that 5pm pub curfew remain until end of January

The Coalition is facing a major backlash from backbenchers to the proposal

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Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan. Photo: Colin Keegan

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan. Photo: Colin Keegan

Fianna Fáil senator Lisa Chambers. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Fianna Fáil senator Lisa Chambers. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

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Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan. Photo: Colin Keegan

Nphet has recommended that a 5pm closing time for pubs and restaurants as well as a raft of new restrictions on indoor and outdoor events remain in place until January 30, Independent.ie has learned.

The recommendation in the chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan's letter to Health Stephen Donnelly last night is being considered by the Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19 on Friday afternoon ahead of a full Cabinet meeting later.

There is significant opposition on the Government backbenches and among some ministers to the 5pm curfew on hospitality, however other ministers have admitted that the transmissibility of the Omicron variant may leave the Coalition no choice but to accept the recommendations of the public health team.

In addition to the curfew on hospitality, Nphet has also recommended that attendances at outdoor events be limited to 50pc or 5,000 attendees. It has advised that indoor theatres, cinemas, entertainment, cultural and sporting events should also be subject to a 5pm curfew and attendance limited to 50pc of capacity.

Dr Holohan has told Mr Donnelly that these measures should come into effect as soon as possible and no later than midnight on Sunday.

The Coalition is facing a major backlash from backbenchers to the proposal to close pubs and restaurants at 5pm.

The shock recommendation is being considered by the Coalition leaders and senior ministers this afternoon ahead of an expected announcement later – with some calls for the closing time to be set at 9pm or 10pm instead.

Seven Fianna Fáil senators took to the Leinster House plinth this afternoon saying that the recommended 5pm closing time for hospitality is a “step too far”.

Led by Senator Lisa Chambers, Senators Shane Cassells, Fiona O’Loughlin, Malcolm Byrne, Eugene Murphy, Pat Casey and Paul Daly, said that the 5pm closure is an effective shut down of the sector.

“That recommendation should not be accepted by Government. The Government have to consider the social and economic impact of those decisions,” she said.

She said that the Senators would not leave the party if Government made the decision to accept the 5pm recommendation and that they would support Government.

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Ms Chambers said that the proposed 5pm closing for hospitality meant “many rural pubs can’t open at all as they often only open in the evening” .

She earlier said on Twitter: "People will socialise at home. Surely it’s better and safer to have regulated spaces like bars and restaurants?”

Senator Casey, who owns a hotel, said that it was closure of the sector “by stealth”.

“The 12 pubs of Christmas will be the 12 house parties of Christmas,” Senator Malcolm Byrne said.

He also said that closing cinemas or theatres at 5pm is a “nuts” idea.

Mr Byrne said he was “totally opposed” to the 5pm closing time and said it will “simply lead to an increase house parties.

Mr Murphy also tweeted: "As most pubs don't open until 6pm, I cannot see any possible proposal from NPHET to close by 5pm acceptable to Government."

Former Fine Gael rural affairs minister Michael Ring has called for the advice to be rejected, while his former Cabinet colleague Regina Doherty tweeted: “If Nphet are really saying that two double vaccinated and boosted people can’t have a pizza and a pint after 5pm then I give up.”

Former agriculture minister and Fianna Fáil backbencher Barry Cowen tweeted: “Obviously am not privy to specific details of Nphet recommendations but surely a 9 or 10pm curfew with weekly review of figures.

"Ramp up boosters with updated Covid certs for entrance to all indoor events. People open to compromise not confrontation in interest of public health."

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and senior ministerial colleagues now find themselves caught in a crossfire between the Nphet advice, and the views of several TDs and Senators who want the new rules to be watered down.

Nphet has also recommended that attendances at outdoor events be limited to 50pc or 5,000 attendees. It advised that indoor theatres, cinemas, entertainment, cultural and sporting events should also be subject to a 5pm curfew and attendance limited to 50pc of capacity.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has told Health Minister Donnelly in a letter that the new restrictions should come into effect as soon as possible and no later than midnight on Sunday.

As the Cabinet sub-committee and full Cabinet meet this Friday afternoon to consider the fresh advice from public health officials, TDs and Senators in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have expressed strong opposition and scepticism about the need to shutter hospitality at 5pm.

However, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has given a strong hint that the Government may be prepared to accept some or all of the Nphet advice, tweeting: “We're all feeling anger, frustration, dismay, depression but that cannot deflect us from making the right decisions to keep our people safe.”

Earlier, in a joint statement, FF senators Casey and Crowe condemned the proposed shutdown of all hospitality at 5pm as “disastrous for the thousands of workers in the Hospitality Sector and discriminatory as this will have a disproportionate effect on people living in Rural Ireland”.

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