Revealed: Cabinet's phased plan to re-open country before Christmas

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has told the Cabinet he wants the country to move to Level 3 restrictions next week.
Revealed: Cabinet's phased plan to re-open country before Christmas

Princes Street Dining, Cork City. Photo Joleen Cronin

Cinemas, museums, and art galleries are to reopen from next week onwards, under the Government’s planned exit from Level 5, the Irish Examiner has confirmed.

However, no decision has yet been taken in relation to re-opening music venues over concerns about large crowds and alcohol and singing in terms of spreading the Coronavirus.

There is likely to be disappointment for sports fans as next month’s All-Ireland football and hurling finals will have to take place behind close doors.

While a plan to allow greater number of fans to attend matches in large stadia are being developed by Arts and Sports Minister Catherine Martin, government sources have made clear they will not be ready until the New Year.

Earlier, Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the Cabinet he wants the country to move to Level 3 restrictions next week.

Cabinet ministers heard details of a planned “multi-phase graduated” re-opening of the economy and society during December at their weekly meeting.

It is likely the full plan will be announced on Friday.

The plan, according to Cabinet sources, is largely agreed upon, but four main areas are yet to be fully resolved. 

They are: when to open hospitality; when travel restrictions can be relaxed; issuing guidance on home visits; and travel home from abroad.

A brief discussion at Cabinet was led by Mr Martin and ministers have agreed that their input will be channelled through their party leaders before they meet again on Thursday.

The plan will involve three main phases. 

They are:

* Retail and sporting activities to re-commence and relaxation of the 5km travel limit from December 2.

* The second phase will see hospitality re-open under strict guidelines but wet pubs will remain closed.

* Closer to Christmas, Phase 3 will give permission for household visits as well as allowing travel anywhere in the country. This measure is aimed at allowing people to travel home and see loved ones at Christmas.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Cabinet ministers discussed the plans during a weekly meeting this afternoon. Picture: Julien Behal
Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Cabinet ministers discussed the plans during a weekly meeting this afternoon. Picture: Julien Behal

The Irish Examiner can confirm:

* Several phases of Covid-19 restrictions will be set out for December;

* Under Level 3, retail, gyms and hairdressers will re-open next week and are set to remain open;

* Outdoor sports including tennis and golf will be allowed;

* It is expected that under Level 3, travel restrictions will be lifted and people will be able to travel within their own county from next week, with a further loosening expected closer to Christmas to allow people see their families.

* A final decision on how the ban on household visits will be lifted is yet to be made.

* A move to allow restaurants to open will follow the week after next but wet pubs are unlikely to be allowed to open unless they have a working kitchen, a stricter rule compared to what applied earlier this year. 

“Pubs will not be able to use the empty pizza box or the chipper next door as a means of staying open,” said one minister.

According to sources, ministers are awaiting to get the final set of recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

It is proposed the second phase of restrictions in December will see restaurants and bars that serve food reopen.

Government ministers have said that the loosening of restrictions on hospitality are likely to be reversed after the New Year should a rise in Covid cases be recorded.

Meanwhile, Cabinet also approved an extension to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment until to 31 March 2021 at the behest of the Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys. 

The scheme was due to close to new entrants on 31 December. 

Speaking after Cabinet, Ms Humphreys said the decision to keep the payment open was taken after she engaged with businesses in the retail and hospitality sectors in recent weeks. She said those sectors are likely to welcome this news.

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