It’s expected a press conference outlining the measures will take place after ministers meet at 8am.
CABINET WILL MEET this morning to sign off on Ireland’s new ‘Living with Covid’ plan.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin and his ministers are due to meet at 8am. It’s expected the full details of the plan – many of which have been well-flagged – will be officially announced at a press conference before midday.
In tandem with the national plan, more restrictive measures are also set to be announced for Dublin specifically following an increase in cases in the county.
It emerged late last night that so-called ‘wet pubs’ in the capital are to be told to remain closed next week, as pubs in the rest of the country open their doors.
The leaders of the Government parties agreed the move last night, with Cabinet expected to sign off on the measure this morning.
In the rest of the country, pubs that do not serve food are set to be allowed re-open as planned on 21 September under the schedule announced by government last week.
The leaders of the three government parties also discussed a recommendaton from NPHET to limit travel in and out of Dublin.
Cabinet will discuss that issue today, with a final decision expected to be announced at this morning’s press conference, sources said.
The national plan
Ministers and officials have been working on the various elements of the new national plan over the last number of weeks.
It will include a colour-coded, five-level system to indicate what public health measures are in place in different areas of the country at any given time and will replace the original roadmap plan set out by then-Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on 1 May.
Alongside the announcement of the national plan, it has been signalled in recent days that restrictive new measures for Dublin are also expected to be announced today.
Of 2,230 coronavirus cases reported in the two weeks up to last Saturday, more than half are located in Dublin. Ireland’s 14-day incidence rate of Covid-19 is currently 46.8, while Dublin’s rate is almost double that at 89.1 per 100,000.
Speaking yesterday, before the decision about the ‘wet’ pubs was made, Varadkar said the situation in Dublin is “markedly different” from the rest of the country.
“Any decisions on any additional restrictions in Dublin will be made tomorrow by Cabinet. But the truth is the situation in Dublin is worrying,” the Tánaiste said.
“We’ve seen a situation where the incidence of the virus was as low as five or six per 100,000 over 14 days and now it’s hitting about 80.
“Depending on how you count it, a 10 or 20-fold increase in the incidence of the virus in Dublin in the space of a few weeks, and while that has not yet resulted in a dramatic increase in people in hospitals, ICUs or deaths, the truth is it’s probably going to head that way if we don’t get on top of it.
We’ve watched it happening in Madrid and we don’t want to go there. There is an opportunity to flatten the curve and we will have to make a decision as a government tomorrow as to what mix of additional restrictions will be required in the capital.
As part of its advice to government following its meeting last week NPHET recommended that only six people from two other households – instead of three other households, as is currently the case – should visit a home in Dublin.
Speaking last week, Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said “if at all possible” family gatherings with multiple people from different households in Dublin, such as communions and christenings, should be stopped for the next few weeks.
It’s been promised the country-wide plan being unveiled today will be “all-encompassing” and will set out clearly the restrictions that will apply at each colour-coded level for social gatherings, sport, travel, entertainment, and work.
When and how each level is introduced will be based on the rate of virus, with more of a focus on the 14-day per 100,000 metric, rather than the daily Covid figures.
There will also also be a focus on ICU and hospitalisation numbers, as well as the number of deaths. (There were 11 people in ICU yesterday. To put that in context, there were 140 people in ICU at the peak in April.)
The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) may not be in the spotlight as much under the new structure.
The Taoiseach has said there will be no “knee-jerk” reactions under the new plan, which will see a new oversight group being established, involving stakeholders and government departments, to implement or modify NPHET’s advice and deliver it to the public.
The move comes after the Tánaiste said recently there should be less of an obsession of the daily Covid figures.
Government sources say ministers believe that in recent months media appearances from NPHET experts have not helped the government’s messaging at times – and that at times their advice has been at odds with final decisions made by government.
And while the Taoiseach has said the main focus of the plan is to protect public health, and prepare as much as possible for a surge in the numbers this winter, it is equally about protecting livelihoods, and getting back to normal – as far as reasonably possible.
It is about responding with “resilience”, said one government source, who added that structures will be put in place to deal with keeping all aspects of society open, even when numbers rise.
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How will the new regional levels work?
It’s envisaged that different areas around the country could have different colours or levels on any given day depending on instances of Covid-19.
Level One will be the lowest while Level Five will be the most serious – which would possibly see lockdown measures akin to those at the start of the pandemic being reimposed. Level Four would be similar to the recent restrictions implemented in Kildare, Laois and Offaly.
It is believed that – regardless of the level of the virus in any area – restrictions on household visits will be recommended across all levels of the plan.
At Level One, it is understood the advice will be that no more than ten people from three households visit a home at any given time.
Sports, travel and concerts
The plan will also deal with mass gatherings, entertainment and sporting events.
A few hundred people – possibly up to 500 – will be allowed at sporting events in venues that have a 5,000 capacity, in areas where the virus rate is at its lowest.
Some government ministers are pushing for increased numbers to be permitted at stadiums like Croke Park and the Aviva Stadium, and at large indoor venues like the Three Arena.
In terms of international travel, the Green List will be scrapped at replaced with the European Commission’s new system of colour-coded countries and regions.
That proposal would see zones classified as green, amber or red based on Covid-19 rates.
Travellers returning from green countries would not have to quarantine. The Taoiseach has already confirmed that the country’s Green List will not be updated and a new scheme for travel will be included in the new plan.
Varadkar has said that the government would like for people to be able to travel abroad to visit loved ones for Christmas.
– With reporting by Cónal Thomas and Daragh Brophy