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Cabinet agrees midnight closing time for pubs, restaurants and nightclubs as Covid cases hit 4,407 and ICU patients reach 114

Covid passes now obligatory in cinemas and theatres to allow venues operate at higher capacity

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Health Minister Stephen Donnelly will also outline plans to subsidise the cost of antigen tests to encourage people to use them Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly will also outline plans to subsidise the cost of antigen tests to encourage people to use them Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly will also outline plans to subsidise the cost of antigen tests to encourage people to use them Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The Cabinet has agreed to introduce a midnight curfew for the hospitality sector.

The new rule will means restaurants, bars and nightclubs will be forced to close at midnight from Thursday.

People will also be urged to work from homes again unless it is necessary for them to go to offices or other workplaces.

Covid-19 passes will be required for cinemas and theatres on a statutory. They will not be extended to gyms and hair salons.

Household close contacts, even if vaccinated, will have to restrict movements for five days pending the outcome of three antigen tests.

Ministers are concerned more restrictions will be needed if the measures introduced today do not reduce transmission.

This comes as there were 4,407 new cases confirmed by the Department of Health this evening.

There are 614 people in hospital with the virus, of which 114 are in ICU.

Ireland’s 14-day incidence is now at 1,146 cases per 100,000 people, the highest it has been since January. Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said he expects this figure to increase further in the coming days.

“In the last 14 days, we have been notified of almost 55,000 cases of Covid-19.

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“This case level is unsustainable. When incidence of disease is as high as this, we must all act as though we are close contacts and as though we are at risk of transmitting the virus to others,” Dr Holohan said.

The CMO called on people to “prioritise who you meet” and to reduce your social contacts if you are in line to receive a booster vaccine soon.

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The move on closing time will be another blow to the hospitality sector, who have only returned to normal since the October bank holiday weekend.

Nightclubs reopened after almost 18 months of closures.

It has also emerged that TDs and senators now cannot bring guests into their Leinster House restaurant until after Christmas due to the Covid-19 surge.

Last week, TDs and senators were told their members’ restaurant was reopening for visitors from the middle of November.

The restaurant had been closed for guests due to the pandemic as the visitors to Leinster House were curtailed.

Now they have got an email saying the members’ restaurant reopening to visitors has been deferred until after Christmas.

The Government is set to decide what protocols are in place for pods in schools on antigen tests.

Antigen tests are to be introduced in schools to test asymptomatic children who are close contacts of ­confirmed cases of Covid-19.

The Government is planning a major roll-out of rapid testing to tackle the spread of the virus.

Central to the plan will be rolling out the tests in secondary and primary schools for pupils who have come in contact with classmates who tested positive for Covid-19.

A pupil who tests positive after an antigen test will also be required to undergo a PCR test.

Any pupil displaying symptoms of Covid-19 will be required to get a PCR test rather than an antigen test.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly will also outline plans to subsidise the cost of antigen tests to encourage people to use them.

Nphet’s Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group head Professor Philip Nolan last night gave updated modelling to the Cabinet committee on Covid-19.

A Government source said the peak of the wave is further away than first ­anticipated, and high case numbers will continue to be recorded over the coming weeks.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Donnelly said the numbers of positive cases, as well as patients in hospital and ICU with Covid-19, are set to rise in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, Covid-19 passes will be required for cinemas and theatres.

But the Cabinet Committee on Covid-19 decided against extending them to gyms, hairdressers and barbers.

Ministers were told this morning the passes will be extended to cinemas and theatres to allow them operate at a higher capacity.

The Government’s Senior Officials Groups is examining the impact of the booster campaign on the use of Covid passes.

Fine Gael's leader in the Seanad Regina Doherty had said she does not think she could support an extension of the Covid-19 vaccination passes to gyms, hairdressers, and other services.

The former social protection minister said there is "absolutely no need for me to have a vaccine pass to go into my hairdressers" and that she does not think she could "genuinely support an extension because it is a discriminatory process".

Ms Doherty made the comments in an interview with Dublin City FM on Sunday. Speaking to Independent.ie today, she said the Government should focus on the roll-out of the booster programme, wider use of antigen testing and addressing vaccine hesitancy.

"We were assured when they were introduced that they were a temporary measure to get hospitality open and that we wouldn’t follow Israel’s example of extending as a tool to influence vaccine take-up," the senator said.

"We should be, as a priority rolling out boosters, using antigen tests as a common tools for infection control and trying to find out why so many people are reluctant to take a vaccine and address those issues rather than curbing people's freedoms any further."

New modelling shows a worst case scenario could see 500 people being admitted to intensive care units.


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