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surge fears Restaurants and gastropubs may be forced to close 'as early as Christmas Eve'

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Christmas drinks (stock)

Christmas drinks (stock)

Christmas drinks (stock)

Restaurants and gastropubs may be forced to close sooner than expected as concerns grow over the rise in new Covid-19 cases.

The Cabinet committee on Covid-19 is meeting this evening to discuss the spike in cases and the emergence of a new strain of the virus in England.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, a senior Government source said it is now the “strong feeling” that pubs and restaurants will have to close before December 30.

Another Government source said restaurants and pubs may be asked to close as early as Christmas Eve.

Details of the plan will be finalised at the Cabinet committee meeting which is due to begin at 6.30pm.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan will be briefed at the meeting by Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan.

It is anticipated Mr Holohan will recommend closing the hospitality sector earlier than the December 28 date which was proposed by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) last week.

Limits on household visits may also be imposed sooner than previously expected. At present three households can meet in one home – and this was to be reduced to just two households on December 30.

Restrictions on inter-county travel are likely to be reintroduced before the end of the year.

The Government was planning to allow people travel between counties until January 6, despite Nphet warning against the move.

However, due to a significant rise in Covid-19 cases and the emergence of a new strain of the virus in Britain, it is now expected restrictions on domestic travel will be brought forward.

Ahead of the Cabinet meeting tomorrow, a senior Government source said the party leaders are considering a number of dates between St Stephen’s Day and 30 December for re-imposing a ban on inter-county travel. A second Government source confirmed these are dates being considered.

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