Cabinet set to meet to discuss possibility of Covid-19 restrictions

The meeting comes after Taoiseach Micheal Martin held talks with representatives from the hospitality industry.

Dominic McGrath
Friday 03 December 2021 12:12
Taoiseach Micheal Martin held talks with representatives from the hospitality industry on Friday (Brian Lawless/PA)
Taoiseach Micheal Martin held talks with representatives from the hospitality industry on Friday (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Cabinet will meet on Friday to discuss the possibility of new Covid-19 restrictions ahead of Christmas.

Public health officials have sent fresh advice to the Government following a meeting of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) on Thursday.

Concern has been expressed in recent days that despite cases of Covid-19 stabilising, numbers remain too high.

The Cabinet meeting at 3pm will follow a meeting of the Covid-19 sub-committee on Friday.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin and Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath met representatives from the hospitality industry on Friday.

PA news agency understands that representatives urged the Government to provide the necessary supports to struggling sectors and asked for a long-time plan amid ongoing uncertainty about the next stages of the pandemic.

Earlier, it emerged the introduction of new testing rules for arrivals into Ireland introduced in response to the Omicron variant, have been delayed by 48 hours.

PA understands that industry figures were informed on Thursday that the rules will now come into effect at midnight on Sunday.

Earlier this week, the Government agreed new rules on travel that would see all travellers entering Ireland required to show a negative result on a professionally-administered antigen test 48 hours before arrival, or on a PCR test 72 hours before arrival.

The changes to the rules, which also apply to travellers from Great Britain, come as the Omicron variant continues to cause concern worldwide.

Ireland has so far confirmed one case of the new variant.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee (Niall Carson/PA)

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said that the new testing regime, due to begin on Friday, had been postponed.

Ms McEntee also said she expects Cabinet to make a decision later on whether restrictions will be brought in.

“I have only just received the letter, so without commenting about what is in it, we’re going to discuss that now with Nphet and others and then we’ll obviously have a Cabinet meeting at 3pm,” the minister added.

“I don’t want to pre-empt the outcome of those discussions.

“I think what that indicates is that we as a government want to move as quickly as possible in response to any recommendations that Nphet may have made.

“We don’t want there to be speculation over the weekend and that in itself can cause confusion and worry for people.

“We want to be able to respond to Nphet as quickly as possible, but obviously have the time to take on board any recommendations that we make.

“I anticipate Cabinet will make a decision today.”

She said that Ireland is a “very different place” to last year, but that the case numbers are still at a concerning level.

“Nobody was vaccinated this time last year. Over 93% of our population has two shots and over 900,000 people now have a third booster,” she added.

“We’ve almost 10,000 people a week getting their first vaccine as well.

“So that is going to change things significantly.

“At the same time, even with all that work, numbers are still high.

“They are not coming down as quickly as we would like and that’s why the recommendations I think have been made.

“But I think people can be reassured that as we roll out the booster programme, as people continue to be vaccinated, that is going to have a huge impact on what we can and can’t do over the next couple of weeks and months.”

She added: “I think the public have always worked with us and we cannot thank them enough for that because it’s been a very difficult time.”

Ahead of the Cabinet meeting, representatives from the hospitality industry met the Taoiseach.

Afterwards, they said he understood that current messaging from government was having “a hugely detrimental” impact on the trade.

A spokesman for Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) said: “Government has committed to avoiding uncertainty about new restrictions continuing into the weekend so we expect further developments later today.

“The key issue of supports for the sector was also discussed. Again, we expect an announcement on that issue shortly.”

On Thursday, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said: “We are beginning to see stabilisation in a range of key indicators of incidence of Covid-19.

“While this progress is very welcome, the level of disease in the community is still a concern.

“Stabilisation is happening at too high a level. The current high incidence is driven by the Delta variant, which, coupled with the presence of the Omicron variant, means that the trajectory of the disease remains uncertain.”

On Thursday, a Bill that would put the potential introduction of mandatory hotel quarantine on a legal footing passed all stages in the Dail.

It is set to be debated and passed by the Seanad later on Friday.

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