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'phased basis' Nphet ready to consider easing of hospitality and working from home restrictions

Leo Varadkar: 'I don’t think we will just be removing all restrictions at the end of January. It will be a phased process over the next couple of months'

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Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer (Brian Lawless/PA)

Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer (Brian Lawless/PA)

Dr Tony Holohan, chief medical officer (Brian Lawless/PA)

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) will this week consider easing restrictions on hospitality and working from home.

The Government will ask chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan to consider whether the 8pm curfew on bars and restaurants can be lifted next month as the current wave of the virus has reached its peak.

It is hoped bars and restaurants will be permitted to open to at least 11pm from next month after Nphet reviews the latest data on the virus.

Masks are still expected to be required for the hospitality sector and indoor live events.

The Government also wants Nphet advice on when people can return to offices again

Nphet will meet on Thursday but the Cabinet may not make a decision on easing restrictions until next week.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s This Week, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he expected the Government to begin rolling back restrictions in February and that this would be done on a “phased basis”.

“I don’t think we will just be removing all restrictions at the end of January. It will be a phased process over the next couple of months,” Mr Varadkar said.

The Tánaiste added that, under “any objective measure”, Ireland had managed the pandemic well.

“Whether it’s case fatality rate, deaths per million or our vaccination programme. Ireland has managed the pandemic well, but I do think we’re coming to the point where we also need to move on.”

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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that under 'any objective measure', Ireland has managed the pandemic well. Photo: Mark Condren

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that under 'any objective measure', Ireland has managed the pandemic well. Photo: Mark Condren

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that under 'any objective measure', Ireland has managed the pandemic well. Photo: Mark Condren

 

Mr Varadkar acknowledged Ireland had the strictest Covid-19 regulations in Europe in place last summer, adding that he did not want to see a repeat of that this year.

“I’ll be pushing for a more ambitious and a quicker reopening in the next couple of months,” he said.

“Nothing risky or reckless but something that’s in line with our European peers.”

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The Tánaiste’s comments come as another 10,753 people tested positive for Covid-19 yesterday on top of 4,208 positive antigen tests reported on Saturday, according to the latest figures from the Department of Health.

As of 8am yesterday, 965 patients are hospitalised with the virus, with 88 of them in ICU.

The number of both positive PCR and antigen tests posted to the Health Service Executive (HSE) portal at the weekend is down considerably from a daily average of new cases that hovered around 20,000 in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, a Dublin TD is warning the public to be aware of what he called “dangerous” fake Covid notices purporting to be from the HSE that are, in reality, nothing but misleading anti-vaccination and conspiracy theory propaganda.

Neale Richmond, a Fine Gael TD for Dublin Rathdown, said notices including a QR code had been posted on school buildings and other public spaces – including Leinster House – in recent weeks.

He urged the public to dismiss the notices while also reporting them.

“These notices include a QR code that once scanned, brings people to a link that contains misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines and other dangerous conspiracy theories,” he said.

“These notices are not from the HSE and have no official relevance at all.

“They are being posted without the permission of schools and other buildings as part of a wider, malicious anti-vax campaign.

“While much debate, rightly, is on the spreading of misinformation by anti-vax campaigners online and through social media; we cannot dismiss the impact of these campaigns that use more traditional methods.”

Meanwhile, visitors have been banned from all inpatient wards at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) due to an ­outbreak of Covid-19.

There were no intensive care/high-dependency beds available in UHL and 12 other hospitals on Saturday, according to latest available figures published by the HSE.

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