Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

09.09 22 Nov 2020


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A Government decision on exiting level five lockdown is expected to be made on Thursday.

The current six-week lockdown is due to end on December 1st - and there's now an expectation of potential level three restrictions for most of next month.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has previously said he hopes the country will be able to reduce restrictions to level three.

However, reports are now emerging of specific restrictions and exceptions that could be in place during December.

It's believed level three restrictions could remain in place for most of the month, before a slight easing of some of the measures regarding travel and household visit for Christmas week.

Gavan Reilly, host of Newstalk's On The Record and Virgin Media News political correspondent, told Newstalk Breakfast with Susan Keogh said there is some flexibility within the original level three plan.

He said: "People will remember when level three was introduced nationwide it still allowed for some visits between households - only later was it tweaked.

"I had a sit-down interview with Micheál Martin on Friday night... he was very circumspect as he said this still has to be trashed out through Cabinet... but the clear hint was that there would be some relaxation for Christmas week only.

"We're likely to hear a final decision on what's going on on Thursday, and if there is to be an address to the nation it will be on Thursday night rather than Friday night.

"Evidently, the political will is to move to level three for the first couple of weeks - we'll have to wait to see whether that does allow household visits."

Gavan noted that there still is a month to go until Christmas week, so a lot could change between now and then.

He also stressed that an announcement is likely on Thursday in order to avoid interrupting the Late Late Toy Show on Friday night.

Restaurants

Meanwhile, The Sunday Times reports that ministers are also considering allowing pubs to open in December, as long as they shut by 10pm.

The paper also reports that there may be table limits of just four people in restaurants, while off-licences could be required to close earlier than pubs in a bid to discourage private parties.

Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, told Newstalk that outdoor-only dining won't work as they need to bring customers 'in from the cold'.

He observed: "What we're looking for is an amendment to level three to allow indoor dining.

"We are in talks with senior officials to try to make sure whatever is done for our industry is practical and viable, and so we can get people back to work as well."

He argued that the restaurants need to be open for the whole of December, and then also beyond that.

'Level 3.5'

Hugh O'Connell, political correspondent with Independent News & Media, told Newstalk Breakfast with Susan Keogh that ministers are looking at 'level 3.5' restrictions for December.

He explained: "The expectation and belief in Government is that level five will not and should not continue past December 1st - that's obviously subject to there not being a spike in the number of the new cases of the virus in the coming days.

"The Government intends to take a decision this week I think to remove the level five lockdown restrictions, and to revert to an enhanced level three... where there is a reopening of retail, gyms, some personal beauty services, hairdressers, barbers and churches."

Mr O'Connell said there's likely to be a continued ban on household visits and advice not to leave your county for the first few weeks of December.

However, that would likely be eased for Christmas week to allow small household gatherings and people to visit their relatives in different parts of the country.

The Government's planning comes as daily figures show there continues to be over 300 new cases of coronavirus being reported per day in recent weeks.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan has warned that he is 'increasingly concerned' over recent numbers, suggesting positive trends seen a few weeks ago 'have not been maintained.

Main image: File photo of a Christmas tree and decorations seen in Dublin's St Stephen's Green Shopping Centre. Photograph: Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie

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