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Taoiseach expects to give ‘clear, comprehensive’ statement on easing of restrictions tomorrow

A “clear and comprehensive” statement on the relaxation of Covid-19 limits is expected tomorrow evening, according to TAOISEACH MICHEL MARTIN.

The NPHET will meet this afternoon to discuss relaxing Covid-19 measures.

Health officials may investigate the end of the 8 p.m. curfew and a partial return to work.

Contrary to expectations, a Friday Cabinet meeting in response to NPHET’s proposals is “not out of the question.”

The Taoiseach told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today that he will make a “clear and thorough announcement about what lies ahead both in the short and medium term” tomorrow evening.

The Taoiseach said he will describe tomorrow “how we want to now live with Covid for the next period”.

However, he added, “we are in a fresh phase.”

“We have come through Omicron better than we may have thought before to Christmas,” Martin remarked.

In addition, Omicron appears to be less virulent than prior waves, reducing the impact on people in terms of severe sickness, deaths and ICUs.

“I believe people and we can be positive,” he added.

Less restrictive measures would be in place until the end of the month, he said.

“I think we may look forward to a sooner easing of restrictions,” he said.

The Tánaiste said today in the Dáil that “we are now going into a different phase, chapter of handling this pandemic”.

Because of the existing degree of immunity and the Omicron variant’s less severity, the government plans to reevaluate its current education and employment rules.

All of our guidelines will likely need to be re-examined. So, today is the NPHET meeting, Friday is the Cabinet meeting, and we anticipate to be able to relax limitations.

“We aim to amend our recommendations not only for schools, but also for workplaces,” he stated.

The probable relaxation of limitations comes after a drop in Covid cases reported in the last week.

NPHET recorded 12,138 new cases last night, down from 20,909 new cases a week ago.

910 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, down from 1,055 a week ago.

Like the Taoiseach this morning, Government ministers have recently expressed optimism about removing limitations as early as next week.

Yesterday, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said he hoped to lift the 8pm curfew on hospitality by next week, saying the country’s position is “much better than it seemed a few weeks ago”.

It “looks like it will allow us the chance to start eliminating limitations rapidly, in my mind fairly widely,” Ryan added.

The Minister also wants a “very rapid” return to work.

To be clear, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said earlier this week that he hoped all limitations, including domestic usage of Covid permits for bars and restaurants, will be repealed by March 31.
He wants to abolish practically all legislative limitations by March 31, but highlighted that some measures, such mask use in crowded settings, remaining home when sick, and Covid permits for overseas travel, may need to be kept.

‘Hopeful’

If the government approves later trading this weekend, the Licensed Vintners Association stated yesterday that its members will “make every effort”.

The group demanded that pubs open until midnight and that all hospitality limitations be lifted shortly after.

We are confident that the reopening of hospitality will be announced in the coming days, according to LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe.

“We want to see the Government act quickly to allow for the return of hospitality.”

The emergency Covid legislation expires on March 31.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly warned that while the emergency powers can be extended for three months, they must be withdrawn.

“I believe measures will be introduced before the end of the month,” Donnelly told RTÉ’s News at One.