Republic of Ireland news

Working from home returns in Republic along with hospitality curfew

Government ministers in the Republic have agreed to urge people who can work from home to do so from Friday to help decrease socialisation

The government in the Republic has agreed that pubs, nightclubs and restaurants will have a midnight closing time from Thursday.

Government ministers, following a Cabinet meeting today, have also agreed to urge people who can work from home to do so from Friday to help decrease socialisation.

It comes amid growing concerns about the rising rates of Covid-19 and growing pressure on the Republic's fragile health system.

Following several hours of discussions, the government decided that Covid-19 passes will be required for cinemas and theatres.

Passes for gyms and hairdressers were ruled out.

In a new development, ministers also agreed that household close contacts should restrict their movement for five days pending completion of antigen testing.

Ministers were given a stark warning at the Cabinet sub-committee meeting yesterday, with estimates that up to 500 people may be in intensive care by next month.

The best-case scenario could see around 200 people in ICU.

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Micheal Martin insisted that his government was taking all necessary steps to tackle the threat of the virus.

"The seasonality that applies to this particular virus, we do need to take the impending threat very seriously.

"Collectively as a society, we do need to reduce socialisation."

"And the government has announced steps with respect of specific measures to add to that overall objective of reducing socialisation, reducing contacts, rolling out the booster programme, along with other initiatives," Mr Martin said.

The hospitality industry has, in recent hours, been reacting to the latest developments.

The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) called on the government to immediately reintroduce Covid supports for the late-night sector.

A spokesman for the LVA also called on the government to develop practical longer-term solutions for hospitality.

Donall O'Keeffe, chief executive of the LVA, said: "Effectively, this latest announcement means that the current Government strategy isn't working.

"We were told that if we waited until the majority of the public was vaccinated we would be able to get back to trading. Well, we waited and that wasn't enough.

"Like the rest of the country, of course we are conscious of the worsening health situation.

"But this will still be really hard news for those working in the sector to take."

There will also be a push to have hundreds of thousands of people in their 50s receive the booster vaccine to help the struggling health system.

GPs, pharmacies and vaccine centres will all be involved in the booster programme, Mr Martin told the Dail.

Speaking on his way to the Cabinet meeting earlier, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said: "If we continue as is, we could be looking at somewhere between 200 and maybe up to 500 people in ICU.

"Obviously that is not something we could countenance.

"We would be looking at over a thousand to over 2,000 in hospital and a very high number of cases so there was significant discussions last night.

"We will be discussing the measures today at Cabinet. We will be looking at accelerating the booster campaign."

Green Party leader and Environment Minister Eamon Ryan said: "The first most important thing is we have to restrict out contacts using our common sense and judgment.

"We had a very long meeting last night, listening very clearly to our health advice.

"We are not where we were a year ago but our hospitals are under huge pressure, our intensive care units are under particular pressure so we have to support them and we do that by restricting our contacts, all of us in a sensible way."

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Republic of Ireland news