The Green Party leader is confident restrictions on hospitality can be eased in two weeks’ time.
Cabinet is set to relax a range of rules around close contacts and PCR testing when it meets this morning.
Under the plan, put forward by the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan, close contacts who are asymptomatic and have received their booster will no longer have to restrict their movements.
The same will be true for asymptomatic close contacts who tested positive in the past three months.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said there will be no talk of lifting the 8pm curfew on pubs and restaurants – but he is confident the restrictions will be eased in February.
“The numbers are still very high so we have to be careful and we still need to keep a close eye on ICU numbers and what the health outcome is,” he said.
“If that in any way turns what you might see is an older cohort, for whatever reason, might come in.
“So, we will hold steady for the next week for sure. We are not due to come back to look at those restrictions until later in January.
“That gives us plenty of time. I think we’re all agreed; we get to the end of this month and these measures will help.
“These measures will keep the country going in a functioning manner and then it is in February, touch wood, please God, all going well, where we can start easing those restrictions.
“I am confident we will be able to.”
The number of patients with COVID in hospital increased to 1,062 yesterday, while the number in ICU was 92 – up three on the same day last week.
“I think all the analysis, all the modelling, is that this will be shorter wave,” said Minister Ryan.
“We have to wait and see but that modelling should give us confidence that we will start to see those restrictions being lifted at the start of February.”
Minister Ryan said the decision to ease close contact rules was based on new advice from the ECDC and NPHET.
He said the changes show that the vaccines are working.
“What we are seeing is, we are not seeing the ICU numbers increase dramatically,” he said.
“They are holding steady and as the Taoiseach said last week, most of the people in ICU don’t have this latest variant. They would be people who either are not vaccinated or had Delta.
“I think the reason we are getting that better health outcome - which is the key measure; the key measure is how many people are getting ill and dying and we have the second-lowest death rate in Europe for COVID at the present time - and one of the key reasons for that is because the vaccines do work.
“So, what [NPHET] are doing is doing risk assessment and the risk is low.”
The WHO this week said up to half of the people in Europe could pick up Omicron in this latest wave and Minister Ryan said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if Ireland saw something similar.
“The focus on the case numbers is not the key metric for us,” he said. “The key metric is hospitalisation and how people get out of hospital quickly and avoid having to be ventilated.”