Irish Covid restrictions: Cabinet has agreed to an 8pm closing time for hospitality amid Omicron concerns

The National Public Health Emergency Team had recommended a 5pm curfew on hospitality and a cap on capacity at large outdoor events of 50%, or 5,000 people but this was opposed among some Government backbenchers.

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The Irish Cabinet has agreed to introduce an 8pm closing time for hospitality, amid growing concern about the new Omicron variant.

Ministers are still meeting this evening to discuss recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

Nphet had recommended a 5pm curfew on hospitality and a cap on capacity at large outdoor events of 50%, or 5,000 people.

This had prompted considerable opposition among some Government backbenchers.

A further 3,628 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been notified in Ireland.

Mulligans Bar on Poolbeg Street in Dublin
Mulligans Bar on Poolbeg Street in Dublin

On Friday morning there were 420 Covid-positive patients in hospital, of which 105 were in ICU.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre said it estimates that approximately 35% of reported cases are now the Omicron variant.

Ireland could witness up to 20,000 cases a day with 2,000 people in hospital by early January under Nphet’s most pessimistic modelling.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan told a briefing on Friday that the Omicron variant now makes up 35% of Covid-19 cases in the country.

Optimistic models predict 8,000 cases a day and between 650 and 1,000 people in hospital, but there are concerns that increased socialisation at Christmas would exacerbate infections.

Nphet members said that even if the variant turns out to be less severe than Delta strain, its superior growth rate meant hospitals are still under threat.

Dr Cillian De Gascun said: “It would be great news if it turned out to be less severe, but its growth advantage remains a serious concern.

“It would have to be far, far less severe than Delta for it not to overwhelm our health service.”