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Return of restrictions Inter-county travel to continue until January 6, but restaurants and pubs expected to close


Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan

Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan

Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan

Inter-county travel will be permitted until January 6 despite the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) recommending that it should be banned from three days after Christmas.

The Government is also expected to allow restaurants and pubs to remain open until December 30.

Social visits to family homes will be reduced to just one household on the same date under plans which will be discussed by Cabinet on Tuesday.

On Thursday, Nphet recommended shutting down the hospitality sector and banning more than one household visit from December 28.

Chief medical officer Tony Holohan’s team also said county-to-county travel should be prohibited on the same day over fears of the rising spread of the coronavirus.

However, a senior Government source yesterday said it is likely the Cabinet will stick with plans to allow people travel around the country until January 6 which is Nollaig na mBan.

After negotiations with the hospitality industry it is expected restaurants and pubs that serve food will remain open until December 30.

Concerns over the impact of New Year’s celebrations on spread of the virus means they will remain closed for at least the early party of January.

It is expected non-essential retails, gyms and personal services such as hairdressers and barbers will remain open into the new year.

Hotels are also in line to remain when the new restrictions on hospitality come into effect.

Nphet did not set a date for when restaurants and pubs should reopen.

But several high-level Government sources said the decision to reopen the hospitality sector will depend on the rate of the virus in the coming weeks.

One senior Cabinet source said they expected the situation will be monitored every two weeks.

Another senior Government source said they did not see restrictions being imposed for as long as six weeks as has been decided in Northern Ireland.

Yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said Nphet is proposing “significant restrictions” on hospitality and the Government is “very minded” to accept the advice.

“There is a desire [by] Nphet to avoid exacerbating that even more with New Year’s Eve given what has happened with Thanksgiving in the US and in Canada,” he added.

He acknowledged it’s “very serious” for the hospitality sector and he said the Government stands ready to support them “during this very, very difficult period”.

Tánaiste and Enterprise Minister Leo Varadkar said he has been contacted by people looking for clarity for businesses in relation to ordering or cancelling stock and what to tell employees.

It comes as six additional deaths were reported yesterday and the daily case toll rose to 582, up from 484 the previous day.

There was a fall in Covid-19 patients in hospital down from 200 to 198, but the number of seriously ill patients in intensive care rose from 31 to 34.

Dr Tony Holohan said the data is further evidence that the situation is getting worse more rapidly than expected,

He said the level of infection is “deteriorating day by day”.

He warned the country simply cannot cope with this level of infection as we head into Christmas week.

With vaccines offering hope in the coming months for our most vulnerable groups we want to keep them alive and well so that they can receive it.

“Each one of us must do all we can to protect public health – cut your contacts, see only those who we need to see.

“Choose to socialise safely outdoors if possible. If you see a crowd, avoid it.”

He said by acting safely now together, people can limit the impact of the disease in the weeks and months to come, protecting the vulnerable and preventing the unnecessary deaths.

Yesterday’s cases included 193 in Dublin, 59 in Wexford, 47 in Louth, 42 in Meath, 34 in Cork and the remaining 207 were spread across all remaining counties.

Asked last night to comment on proposed new restrictions after Christmas, infectious disease consultant Prof Sam McConkey said he did not believe people will try to squeeze in as many visits to pubs and restaurants as they can between now and after Christmas,

“I think most people are basically sensible,” he said. “I think the Government is better to be straight and give these businesses warning because they have to be given warning – they have to buy in food and drink and perishable goods.”

Meanwhile, it emerged yesterday that the Republic of Ireland is in line is to get a higher portion of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine, which should be available in early January, following a deal with the EU.

Instead of around 800,000 vaccine doses, Ireland will be entitled to 1.6 million throughout 2021.

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Irish Independent