By Jonathan McCambridge, PA
Updated at 16:30
A Cabinet Minister has said current restrictions around nightclubs and live events could be rolled back if the Omicron variant is not as serious as expected.
A range of restrictions will be in place from December 7th to January 9th, including the closing of nightclubs and new limits on household gatherings.
It comes amid concern about increased socialising at Christmas and the threat posed by the new Omicron variant of coronavirus.
Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics, Michael McGrath, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, said the decisions made by the Cabinet were unanimous.
The Minister said: “We expect to get some of those answers quite quickly and, if those answers are benign or favourable and some of the concerns in relation to Omicron do not materialise, then I anticipate that some of these restrictions can be removed quite quickly.
“Nphet’s modelling is an inexact science, they are making forecasts with a whole set of variables, many of whom are simply not known.
“It is one factor in the overall set of considerations. It represents a valuable input. Of course, it is not perfect, no set of forecasting can be perfect.”
He added: “They were based on the public health advice that we have received from Nphet. We value and respect our public health experts who provide advice to Government.
“We have had a good working relationship with Nphet over a long period of time, and it is vitally important that that is maintained because I believe, in general, the public trusts our public health advisors and that relationship between Government and Nphet has been at the heart of our approach to managing this pandemic.
“It is essentially precautionary in nature, this is a pre-emptive move by Government based on advice because there are a significant number of questions we cannot yet answer in relation to the Omicron variant.”
It comes as the Government has been accused of “mixed messaging” on new Covid-19 regulations by Sinn Féin, after the Tánaiste said that tightening restrictions at the current time was “peculiar”.
In an interview with the Sunday Business Post, Leo Varadkar said: “I think it is peculiar that we are tightening restrictions at a time when things are improving, from cases, ICU figures, and hospitalisations.”
However, the Tánaiste also said that he understood why the decisions were being made due to fears after last Christmas resulted in an upsurge of virus cases.
Sinn Féin TD Mairead Farrell said the irony of Government complaints about leaks would not be lost on anyone, when it “had been plagued by leaks”.
She said: “The reality is that this kind of mixed messaging is of benefit to no-one.
“It adds to the concerns of the general public, of businesses that are trying to stay open, of people who are wondering if they are going to have a job next week.
“It is incredibly frustrating for the general public.
“Having mixed messages now is not helpful to businesses or to those people who are going to work to try and earn a living.”