Nphet recommends easing of most Covid restrictions in coming days

Nphet recommends easing of most Covid restrictions in coming days

It is understood that the Nphet meeting agreed to end its advice that Covid certs are required to access hospitality indoors.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has paved the way for the ending of most restrictions in the coming days.

The group met this evening and in a letter to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has suggested the end of the majority of measures that are currently in place.

The Irish Examiner has confirmed that Nphet has said that it is safe to remove almost every Covid-19 restriction, confirming the Omicron peak is now over.

It is understood that the Nphet meeting agreed to end its advice that Covid certs are required to access hospitality indoors.

It is also believed the two-metre social distancing requirement is also no longer deemed necessary.

Sources have said Nphet has recommended that limits on household visiting and early closing for hospitality and events can now be ended.

It is clear that nightclubs will be permitted to open again and punters will be able to drink at the bar counter.

Reacting to the news, Donall O’Keeffe, chief executive of the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) said the news has been "eagerly awaited" and hospitality is "ready and waiting to open our doors this weekend".

Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) chief executive Padraig Cribben said this weekend "marks a new beginning for the trade”, while Adrian Cummins of the Restaurant Association of Ireland said the sector is ready to fully reopen.

Nphet has also approved the return to full capacities for major sporting events while restrictions for indoor events can be ended as soon as the Government decides it is appropriate, sources said.

In a major boost for cities and towns, current health advice recommending people to work from home will also be removed to allow a phased return to the office.

On foot of this more positive than expected advice, the Government will on Friday bring the curtain down on the stringent limitations imposed before Christmas.

Sources have said that the Nphet letter means that mask-wearing, Covid passes for international travel and isolation when symptomatic are to remain in place.

While Nphet has stated it is safe to remove these measures, it has not set out any timelines and that has raised an expectation that ministers could ease some restrictions immediately.

The Cabinet will meet at 3pm tomorrow to discuss the advice, but one senior minister said that the advice was "all good", with another saying that it showed confidence that the worst of the two-year pandemic is over.

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe told RTÉ it is reasonable to expect that the state will be able to exit regulations at a faster pace than would have looked likely a number of weeks ago.

He said: “What we have done at all points in this pandemic is been guided by public health advice. We have looked to deploy timings that get the balance right between the needs to our economy and society and that of public health, and that is what we will continue to do.”

It comes as the Department of Health has been notified of a further 10,571 new cases of Covid-19 in Ireland; 5,523 PCR-confirmed cases, as well as 5,048 positive antigen tests logged through the HSE portal.

The number of people hospitalised with the virus stands at 910, which is a reduction of 14 since yesterday.

Of those being treated in hospital, the number of people in intensive care units remains unchanged at 90.

Meanwhile, in the North, the dropping of a requirement for Covid certification to enter some hospitality venues and the reopening of nightclubs have been agreed by the Stormont Executive.

The remaining Covid restrictions in Northern Ireland will be reviewed by the Stormont Executive on February 10.

Europe remains the region worst hit by Covid-19, with the highest number of deaths despite falling case numbers in some countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

There were 18.7m new cases found last week globally, according to the WHO, and 8.2m (or 44%) were in Europe. Almost all regions reported increasing cases, except for countries in Africa which saw a 27% decrease compared to the week before.

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