8pm pub closure time 'first to go' as restrictions expected to be lifted next week

8pm pub closure time 'first to go' as restrictions expected to be lifted next week

THE 8PM closure time of pubs and restaurants in Ireland is expected to to be the first of the restrictions to go, a member of government has said, and the easing of restrictions could begin as early as next week.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland on Wednesday, Minister for Transport and Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan TD said he would expect to see restrictions start to be lifted by the end of next week.

He also said he thought Tánaiste Leo Varadkar's timeline of all restrictions being lifted by the end of March "makes sense".

"The restrictions that are in place have bee legislated for through to the end of March," he said. "So by that time, I hope and expect restrictions to be lifted, even though we have to be careful with Covid because it can keep changing and nothing is certain.

"But the position we are in is a lot better than it had looked a number of weeks ago. The numbers in ICU have held steady, and the health consequences of the virus, which for some people can still be very significant, are generally not at the same level as other variants."

He said that the position Ireland is in against the virus means that restrictions can start to be lifted "quickly" and, in his mind, "widely".

A cabinet sub-committee is expected to take place on Friday where decisions on restrictions will be made to give people and businesses advanced notice.

"I think we need to start bringing back some of our social lives," he continued. "That's important for our health, wellbeing and welfare.

Minister Ryan said he believed cultural and sporting events should come back soon, as well as a return to office.

He also said the Omicron variant of the virus has followed a predicted trajectory of a sharp increase in cases but quick fall shortly after.

Advice on requirement to wear masks in various settings will also be sought by government.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, speaking on his way into this morning's Cabinet meeting, said "we can be optimistic about the medium term" with regards to the pandemic.