“We are not where we hoped to be or expected to be for Ireland’s reopening on October 22”, according to Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, as he said Ireland is most likely experiencing a “twin peak of the Delta variant”.
Speaking at the Government announcement today, Mr Varadkar said the pandemic “isn’t over in Ireland”.
"We have to get through another winter before we can safely say it’s behind us.
"We're not where we hoped to be or expected to be for October 22. We are not past the Delta variant peak, we are most likely experiencing a twin peak,” he added.
Speaking as they revealed the easing of restrictions, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said all of the progress on easing restrictions remains in place and everything that has reopened will remain open.
"The progress we have made together is real, tangible and has to be protected," Taoiseach Micheal Martin said today.
"The changes to the plan made today ensure our next steps are safe and sustainable.
"The message is clear and can be summarised in three requests.
"If you're indoors, wear a mask.
"If you're running an event indoors, ask for vaccination and enforce rules.
"And crucially if you have not yet been vaccinated or had your second vaccination, please make arrangements to be fully vaccinated. It is safe, free and the best way out of the pandemic."
The Government announced today that nightclubs will be permitted to reopen using Digital Covid Certificates under the government’s new reopening plan – and limits on the number of people who can attend weddings and other religious ceremonies will be lifted.
This Friday will no longer mark the end of Covid rules amid fears over increasing case numbers and hospitalisations.
The number of people who can sit a table in a restaurant or pub will increase to ten from Friday under the Government’s new reopening plans.
Table service will still only be permitted and people will not be allowed sit at bars in pubs.
Customers will also have to show their vaccination certificate and proof of identity before entering a pub, restaurant or café.
Here are the changes to our restrictions:
Ministers have agreed plans to allow nightclubs return but only under a new regime of strict protocols for revellers.
The certificates are now expected to be part of nightclubs’ reopening, where venues will have to follow strict protocols.
They will be permitted to open on Friday.
The use of antigen tests will be promoted on a voluntary basis for high risk indoor activities.
The return to full capacity sports stadiums will be permitted from Friday under the plan on the basis it is an outdoor activity.
Restrictions on hospitality are expected to remain in place until at least February next year – they agreed to follow Nphet’s advice on retaining the use of masks and covid digital certificates for indoor hospitality.
The Cabinet has agreed to lift restrictions on pub opening hours.
Table service only will continue to be a rule – and maximum 10 adults at a table. It is yet unclear whether table service only applies to nightclubs.
The Government is expected to shun a major return to office next week, and instead continue to encourage office workers to return to the workplace on a gradual basis.
"This should continue on a phased and cautious basis,” the Taoiseach said.
Limits on the number of people who can attend weddings and other religious ceremonies will be lifted from Friday.
Meanwhile, over-60s will soon be able to avail of Covid-19 booster vaccine shots following advice from the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac).
The extension of boosters will be an essential element of the Government’s plan to tackle the resurgent virus.
It is hoped the HSE can begin administering boosters to over-60s as soon as possible.
Also, antigen testing will finally be scaled-up as the Government is expected to delay lifting the final Covid-19 restrictions.
Ahead of the meeting, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly suggest antigen tests may be given to people who are deemed closed contacts of people who tests positive for Covid.
The rising number of new Covid-19 cases has put a significant strain on the health service again and has force a rethink on reopening plans.
As part of the plans to address the new wave of cases, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly is also pushing for more widespread use of antigen tests across government department.
Mr Donnelly is frustrated that his Cabinet colleagues have not taken advantage of an expert group on antigen testing which he established during the summer. The group, chaired by chief scientist Mark Ferguson, is available to provide advice to all department on utilising antigen tests.
However, at present the tests are only being used in healthcare settings and in third-level education.
Yesterday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he is a “strong believer in antigen testing” and said he wants a further roll-out of the programme.
“Our public health officials have a more moderated perspective on the value of antigen testing but some sectors have rolled out antigen testing and that is something that the Government will be considering as well over the next 24 hours,” Mr Martin said.
Higher Education Minister Simon Harris has run pilot schemes in universities which have seen students and staff avail of the rapid tests before going to classes.
The department is sponsoring the UniCov project, which is being carried out in four locations. UCD, UCC, NUI Galway and Trinity College.
The HSE has carried out a pilot in five further and higher education locations, and has extended it to seven sites this autumn.
As of last week, 11,217 tests were carried out with less than 1pc showing a positive result. Around 60pc of those participating in the pilot testing schemes are students and 40 per cent are staff.
Anyone with a positive test is referred for a PCR test, in line with public health advice.