Restrictions expected to be relaxed: Wider reopening of bars ‘will give everybody such a lift’

Current public health restrictions were due to stay in place until the end of the month, but it is now expected that the Government will begin lifting them sooner.
Restrictions expected to be relaxed: Wider reopening of bars ‘will give everybody such a lift’

Michael O'Donovan, of The Castle Inn, South Main Street & Chairperson Cork City & Cork County Branch Vintners Federation of Ireland. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

People can look forward to an earlier-than-planned lifting of Covid restrictions.

Current public health restrictions were due to stay in place until the end of the month, but it is now expected that the Government will begin lifting them sooner.

Nphet met today and it is understood they have recommended the end of early closing for hospitality and the 2m social distancing rule.

Caps on event attendance and the need for Covid passes to gain entry to indoor hospitality could also be scrapped.

Government ministers will meet tomorrow to assess the advice before the Taoiseach makes an announcement.

Owner of the Castle Inn on South Main St, Michael O’Donovan, welcomed the news.

He said: 

“We’ve been on life support for 22 months really, and the news, while it’s come suddenly, it’s great to hear it because it’s been just so tough.

“Now as a society, I think we have to move on from Covid and for us in hospitality, in our pubs, we’ve been in a very difficult position, asking people for their certs, doing social distancing etc.”

Mr O’Donovan, who is the Cork City chairman of the Vintners Federation of Ireland, continued: “When we turn people away from our doors, it’s heartbreaking, and to see that stopping, and hopefully as soon as possible, and to be able to use our bar counters in the coming period, it’ll give everybody such a lift.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he will give a “clear and comprehensive statement” about the plans for the weeks and months ahead this evening.

“The situation is positive. We have come through Omicron better than we might have expected prior to Christmas,” the Taoiseach told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland today.

“The combination of the booster campaign and vaccination and the fact that Omicron does not seem to be as virulent as Delta and previous waves, has meant that the impact on people, in terms of severe illness and death and ICUs, has been much less. So, therefore, I think people can be positive, we can be positive.”

He said that Ireland is entering a new phase, and that changes are expected to happen next week, but said measures including the wearing of masks will continue for some time.

Mr Martin also confirmed an inquiry into how the Government handled the pandemic will be carried out.

“I would prefer to call it an evaluation of how the country managed Covid-19,” the Fianna Fáil leader added.

“I think we do have to learn lessons — principally learn lessons for the future that other pandemics could happen.

“This pandemic isn’t over, by the way, I just have to stress that point.”

He confirmed that the inquiry will be held in public.

Today, a further 5,523 cases of Covid-19 were notified in Ireland.

In addition, 5,048 people registered a positive antigen test through the HSE portal.

As of 8am on Thursday, there were 896 Covid-positive patients in hospital, of whom 90 were in intensive care.

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