The three Coalition leaders will meet this morning at Government Buildings to consider recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team on the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, in advance of a full Cabinet meeting at 3pm.
NPHET has given the green light to ending most of the restrictions and, because it did not specify any timeline, has left it up to the Cabinet to decide on the speed by which this will happen.
NPHET told the Government last night that it is supportive of lifting almost all Covid-19 restrictions and that analysis has cleared the way for Cabinet to act swiftly.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Prime Time, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said last night that it was “reasonable to expect” that Ireland will exit Covid-19 regulations more quickly than what would have been expected just a few days ago.
It had been widely expected that the earlier closing time for the hospitality sector would be lifted from next week, however ministers could now lift all other Covid-19 restrictions on customers at the same time.
Late night entertainment could also be back far faster than had been predicted.
Other measures, such as limits on household visits, limits on capacity on sporting events or weddings could also be jettisoned speedily.
However, not everything will move apace.
The return to working in the office is expected to be phased-in; facemask wearing will continue; Covid certs will be needed for international travel and people will continue to be required to isolate if they are symptomatic for Covid-19.
Once ministers take their collective decision, it is expected that Taoiseach Micheál Martin will give a televised address this evening and outline the Government’s short and medium-term pandemic plan.
The Restaurants Association of Ireland has called on the Government to allow all hospitality businesses trade as normal from this evening.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, RAI Chief Executive Adrian Cummins said businesses that have the capacity to fully operationalise should be given the opportunity to do so.
He said the hospitality industry has been “flattened” over the last two years due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“Today is a good day,” he said, and called for a two-month extension to the winding down of Covid supports for businesses in hospitality on 1 February.
The General Manager of the Slieve Russell Hotel in Co Cavan, said the lifting of restrictions is hugely important for the hotel and for weddings.
Speaking on the same programme, Tony Walker said the relaxing of measures will ease the uncertainty that is currently in place and is “hugely important”, particularly for a border county
He said 45% percent of couples who have their weddings at Slieve Russell Hotel are from Northern Ireland, where there are no caps on wedding numbers at the moment.
“That has been challenge for us” with couples choosing venues in NI instead.
He said for couples, with their weddings usually booked a long time in advance, this lifting of restrictions will give them confidence to plan.
Yesterday, the Department of Health reported 5,523 additional PCR-confirmed cases of Covid-19, as well as 5,048 positive antigen tests registered through the HSE portal.
There were 896 people in hospital with Covid-19 and, of these, 90 patients are being treated in ICUs.