THE GOVERNMENT have been advised to close the hospitality sector again on 28 December following a rise in Covid-19 cases in the country.
Ireland had successfully brought down the daily number of cases during a six-week lockdown, but cases have been on the rise again since the country exited lockdown on 1 December.
Today marks an easing of restrictions for the Christmas period, where more households can mix indoors and people can cross county borders to visit family, and this easing of restrictions was expected to last until 6 January.
Now however, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has warned the Governmet that harsher restrictions should be re-imposed far earlier due to the significance of the rise in cases.
In a letter to government, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan recommended that home visits should be reduced to visitors from just one other household, and all pubs, restaurants and hotels, regardless of whether they serve food, should close.
Professor Philip Nolan, Chair of the NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, said yesterday that Ireland is in "a phase of rapid growth, which if allowed continue, will result in 700 - 1200 cases per day by the second week in January, if not sooner."
Taoiseach Micheál Martin yesterday admitted that he was "very worried" in the direction the cases appeared to be going, and said the Cabinet would meet this coming Tuesday to discuss moving to a higher level of restrictions from 28 December.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar yesterday appeared on RTÉ's PrimeTime and said a return to Level 5 was "not inevitable" as the cases could stabilise again, but it was unlikely this would happen.
"The kind of restrictions we would be thinking about imposing between Christmas and New Year’s are restrictions on hospitality, essentially closing hospitality again and limiting household visits but not imposing a total ban on them," he said, adding that non-essential retail may still be allowed to open.
He added, "We’d still be giving businesses seven-10 days notice if we make an announcement on Tuesday."
Yesterday, a further 484 case of Covid-19 were identified in Ireland, bringing the total to 77,686 after the denotification of 3 cases.
Three more people have sadly passed away; there has now been a total of 2,143 coronavirus -related deaths in Ireland