The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has recommended further restrictions on hospitality.
It’s understood a letter to Government from the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan along with Nphet has advised that the rules for indoor hospitality should be brought back to where they were before October 22, which would mean a closing time of 11.30pm and no bar service.
Senior ministers met this morning for a Cabinet sub-Committee on Covid-19, to discuss the letter which also advises a 50% capacity limit for indoor entertainment and sporting fixtures.
Nphet has also recommended that household visits should be limited to three households at one time until January 9, including over the festive period in an effort to curb the spread of the virus over Christmas.
Senior Government sources told thethe restrictions, once approved by Cabinet, will be in place “throughout December and January” at least, until we “get to grips with the Omicron variant”.
Among the measures for hospitality, which are believed to have been considered by Nphet include:
- Eliminating the capacity of people to book multiple tables;
- Reducing numbers to six people per table and restricting opening times;
- There is also a recommendation that will see the extension of Covid certs to other areas beyond hospitality.
Senior sources also said the Government could move as early as tomorrow to bolster targeted financial supports for hospitality businesses for both employers and employees.
There was a view that they don't require a Cabinet decision and could happen immediately.
Justice Minister Helen McEntee said the Government will move "as quickly as it can" in terms of examining the latest Covid recommendations proposed by Nphet.
However, she stressed that they need to be given time to "look at this advice and take it on board".
The Minister told RTÉ radio that the Government has to ensure they are clear about what they are doing and why they are doing it.
"Of course if there are impacts on businesses at any stage of this, I hope people would agree that we haven't left people wanting. We have always responded where business has needed additional income.
"Where individuals have lost their jobs. We have always provided that support. This won't be any different."
Ms McEntee said she was particularly conscious that they have asked people to pull back and to reduce their social contacts.
"I am talking to businesses particularly in the hospitality sector and I know the impact that is having on them. This should be their busiest time and it's not."
Ms McEntee refuted suggestions of government flip-flopping or confusion behind the scenes. She added that we are in a "fluid situation" because of the nature of the Covid virus.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath met with hospitality industry representatives today to discuss the impact of the latest restrictions on turnover.
Floods of cancellations have occurred in the past week since Nphet first urged a tempering of social contacts.
Meanwhile, the HSE warned that the health system is on “high alert” heading into the winter with Covid-patient numbers stabilising at a very high level.
HSE CEO Paul Reid said having 117 people with one illness in ICUs using 40% of the beds is “not normal” and he urged the public to continue following public health measures.
He called on unvaccinated people to keep coming forward for their shots. They make up just 6.5% of adults but account for 48% of Covid hospitalisations and 50% of ICU patients, he said.
The Irish restrictions come as Germany moved to impose a de facto lockdown on people who are not vaccinated as more than 70,000 newly confirmed infections were reported in the country in a 24-hour period.
Unvaccinated people will be excluded from non-essential shops, and cultural and recreational venues, and the German parliament will consider a general vaccine mandate, as part of efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus.