Cabinet discuss in-county travel and 'vaccine bonus' as decision on easing restrictions looms

Cabinet discuss in-county travel and 'vaccine bonus' as decision on easing restrictions looms

Public health officials have warned against any premature easing of restrictions, saying the rate of transmission of Covid-19 remains 'too high'. 

The Cabinet met this afternoon to decide on easing the Covid-19 restrictions from next week.

It is understood Monday night's Cabinet subcommittee meeting signed off on a number of measures including:

  • The easing of the 5km exercise restriction to a county-wide restriction from April 12 - people will be able to travel within their county or 20km from home, whichever is the greater
  • An allowance for two households to meet in a garden from the same date
  • The phased return of construction, beginning with home building on April 12
  • A return to intercounty GAA training on April 19
  • The resumption of golf, tennis and children's training on April 26

However, all of the weekly moves will be subject to ongoing reviews after Nphet's presentation to the subcommittee was described as "fairly grim".

The Cabinet also considered a move which would allow fully vaccinated people meet indoors from April 12. This is part of what is being dubbed the "vaccine bonus".

While there was no decision on hospitality, it is understood that inter-county travel may not be permitted until July.

The easing of restrictions will also see the numbers allowed at a funeral rise from 10 to 25, though there is not believed to be a similar rise for weddings at this point.

Non-essential retail and personal services, such as hairdressers and salons, may be allowed open as early as May.

It is also planned that heritage sites, zoos, and other state attractions will re-open on April 26.

Galleries and museums will also be considered for reopening after May 4 and underage dance classes will return at the same time as sports training.

It is understood that Culture Minister Catherine Martin stressed the need for a "data driven" roadmap for reopening of the tourism sector.

More outdoor activities

According to sources, ministers have discussed a plan to allow more outdoor activities for people from the second half of April onwards, with sources saying the Government was aware it "has to do something" and work to stop people meeting indoors, seen as a much riskier activity.

All of the weekly moves will be subject to ongoing reviews after Nphet's presentation to the subcommittee was described as 'fairly grim'. Picture: Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie
All of the weekly moves will be subject to ongoing reviews after Nphet's presentation to the subcommittee was described as 'fairly grim'. Picture: Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie

The Cabinet meeting, moved to Tuesday afternoon from its usual morning slot, will be followed by a state-of-the-nation address by Taoiseach Micheál Martin at 6pm and a press conference immediately after.

On Monday night,  Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said the Government would follow a step-by-step approach in the weeks ahead.

Public health officials have warned against any premature easing of restrictions, saying the rate of transmission of Covid-19 remains “too high”. 

Little wiggle room

Sources say there is little wiggle room for the Government to ease restrictions, given the Nphet briefing.

Sources said Nphet, which had earlier on Monday had its own lengthy meeting, laid out a precarious national picture and urged that whatever decisions are made be "cautious". 

The Government's response will be to phase the reopenings, with a larger push to open non-essential retail in May and hospitality from June onwards.

These pushes will coincide, it is hoped, with the acceleration of the vaccine rollout.

Vaccine rollout

The Cabinet announcement is expected to come with an overhaul of the vaccination programme.

The National Vaccination Programme will change to an age-based system once the current group of people - those aged 70 and up, the vulnerable and people with underlying conditions - are immunised.

The system is expected to come into force after Group 8 are vaccinated and would see people vaccinated in 10 year age groups, starting with those aged under 64 years.

A number of professional and other groups have lobbied to be moved up the current vaccination schedule.

New advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee is that no occupational group is at higher risk of disease or death from Covid-19.

It is hoped the changes will lead to a simplified system for delivering vaccinations.

This is similar to the system adopted in the UK, with cohorts coming in descending age order, with those aged 18 to 29 last.

The State’s vaccine rollout has started picking up speed despite glitches in supply and is finally heading towards the 1m doses mark.

Up to Friday 786,569 doses were given, with HSE chief executive Paul Reid confident weekend clinics will have brought this close to 800,000 by Sunday night.

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