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Government set to announce significant reopening of the country for Christmas

Retail, hairdressers and gyms are expected to open on December 1, while restaurants and gastropubs will follow a week later.

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin speaks to the media during a visit to Dublin Port (Julien Behal Photography)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin speaks to the media during a visit to Dublin Port (Julien Behal Photography)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin speaks to the media during a visit to Dublin Port (Julien Behal Photography)

The Government is set to announce the reopening of retail, hairdressers, gyms and golf courses from December 1.

An announcement from Taoiseach Micheal Martin is due to take place this evening.

It follows a week of intense discussions between the Government and public health officials.

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A man walks past the Brown Thomas Christmas window on Dublin’s Grafton street (PA)

A man walks past the Brown Thomas Christmas window on Dublin’s Grafton street (PA)

A man walks past the Brown Thomas Christmas window on Dublin’s Grafton street (PA)

The Government looks set to take a staggered approach to reopening the country and the economy ahead of Christmas.

From December 1 all retail, hairdressers and barbers, places of worship, gyms and libraries will be allowed to open, according to political sources.

Restaurants, cafes and gastropubs will follow around a week later, it is understood, despite warnings from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) that they should be allowed to serve takeaway orders only.

Finally the ban on inter-county travel will be lifted from December 18 to allow people to visit relatives at Christmas.

Cabinet was meeting on Friday afternoon to decide how Ireland will exit Level 5 coronavirus restrictions.

The country’s six-week lockdown is due to come to an end on Tuesday night.

Nphet had warned the Government against reopening the hospitality sector ahead of Christmas.

It has recommended that pubs and restaurants should only be allowed to serve takeaways throughout December.

But it is understood that Cabinet ministers will give the go-ahead for pubs serving food and restaurants to reopen from December 7.

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The Government has been handed a significant boost ahead of the announcement, with news that the number of daily cases has dropped to 206 – the lowest figure since mid-September.

Significantly, Ireland’s 14-day incidence rate of Covid-19 has fallen below 100 per 100,000.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly tweeted: “Just got the latest Covid figures and am delighted to share that for the first time in quite a while our 14 day incidence rate per 100k has fallen below 100 (98). And our 7 day is 40, suggesting our cases are still falling.”

The Licensed Vintners’ Association (LVA) said any decision to keep wet pubs closed while other parts of hospitality are allowed to open would be a “political decision” by the coalition Government based on “zero evidence”.

LVA chief executive Donall O’Keeffe said: “The Government can’t hide behind Nphet now if they decide to single out the ‘wet’ pubs and keep them closed.

“It will now be quite clear this is a decision that is only being made by members of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Green Party, and they will have to own that decision. Nphet didn’t tell them that only the ‘wet’ pubs should be kept closed.

“There is no evidence which exists that ‘wet’ pubs pose a greater risk than restaurants or gastropubs. The same regulations and enforcements are in place for all these types of venue – the same social distancing and the same time limits.”

Restaurateurs have called for the Government to provide clear and concise guidelines ahead of any reopening.

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