'We need to move fast - we’ve done it before to suppress the virus' - Stephen Donnelly
One hundred people will be allowed to attend weddings under new Covid-19 rules due to be introduced by the Government.
The move will be a huge boost for people due to get married in the coming weeks as current restrictions only permit 50 people to attend.
The Cabinet subcommittee on Covid agreed to double the number of people who can attend weddings in time for today's announcement on the latest restriction levels.
However, there will be restrictions on house visits in the capital and the reopening of wet pubs in Dublin will also be delayed.
The Government has agreed the country is at level two of their new five-point scale of restrictions, hence the ability to hold larger weddings.
There remains concern about the rise in cases in Dublin - but it has been agreed not to move the capital into the more severe level three of restrictions this week.
However, the Government will today enforce a National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) recommendation asking that wet pubs in Dublin do not open on September 21.
The leaders of the Government parties are believed to have agreed pubs will not open in Dublin next week. The Cabinet is expected to sign off on the decision.
Restrictions on the number of people permitted to visit a household will also be introduced in Dublin.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the Government was working to “protect lives and jobs” as it works on its five level roadmap to control the spread of Covid-19.
He said this morning as he headed into a Cabinet meeting on the plan, that Ireland was moving from “chapter one of the virus” - which was “about shutting the country down, flattening the curve,” to “opening up the country with a roadmap to suppress the virus.”
Mr Donnelly told Morning Ireland on RTÉ: “We need to move fast - we’ve done it before to suppress the virus.
“We have to keep schools and hospitals open.”
The five level plan was being rolled out, he added “to protect jobs and save a lot of lives.”
The roadmap is planned for the next six to nine months. Mr Donnelly said: “We are in a dynamic global world” and it was hoped a vaccine would come.
It was vital people followed public health advice, he added and worked together, as those in Kildare, Laois and Offaly had done during a recent lockdown period.
The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) said the decision to delay the reopening of pubs in Dublin is "disgraceful".
"It seems like the Government and Nphet want to just wreck the pub sector in this country," a spokesperson said.
In future, up to 10 different criteria will be used by public health officials to determine whether a county should be subjected to more stringent Covid-19 restrictions.
Under the Government's new plan for living with the virus, Nphet will take a number of factors into account - including the number of new cases over seven and 14 days - before recommending new restrictions for a region of the country.
The group of senior civil servants and health professionals will also consider the five-day rolling average of cases, the rate of community transmission and the characteristic of the outbreaks.
Nphet will also examine the capacity of a county to manage outbreaks in at-risk settings such as nursing homes, and among vulnerable groups such as the homeless and those in direct provision.
A county's capacity to handle testing of new cases will also be considered. Nationally, the number of deaths and the resilience of the health service to deal with a surge in cases will be factored into any decision taken on restrictions.
The international situation on Covid-19 will also be taken into account, as will other infection-prevention measures such as the uptake of the winter flu vaccine.
Once all these metrics are considered, Nphet will make a recommendation to government that will be examined by a group of senior civil servants and then discussed by the Cabinet. A decision can then be taken on moving a county up or down the new five-level system of restrictions, with five being the most severe and one being the least.
Michael McGrath has signalled Dublin “is going in the wrong direction” regarding Covid-19 cases - and changes today will address that.
The Minister for Public Expenditure told Morning Ireland on RTÉ 1: “It’s likely there will be some differentiation” in the Covid-19 Government plan for Dublin compared to the rest of the country.
Speaking on the way into a Cabinet meeting this morning, he added: “We have to respond to where it’s adverse at this time, it's very obvious the numbers in Dublin are going in the wrong direction, so measures to address that are required.
Yesterday, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the situation in Dublin was "worrying".
"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," Mr Varadkar said.
"And while that has not yet resulted in a dramatic increase in people in hospital or ICUs or deaths, the truth is that it's probably going to head that way if we don't get on top of it. We watch what's happening in Madrid and in Spain, and we don't want to go there."
He added: "There is an opportunity to flatten the curve again in Dublin.
"The message I think to any county that may be heading into additional restrictions, like Dublin, for example, is that if we work together, if we remember the three Ws [washing hands, wearing a face covering, and watching distance from others], we can get on top of it."
Mr Varadkar said that part of the new plan would involve the Government taking more time to consider recommendations made by Nphet.
He said that Nphet had enormous expertise in medicine and science but perhaps not so much in running a bus service or a business.
"What government wants to do more of in the future is to take a bit of time to consider the Nphet advice to make sure that it's practical in the real world.
"We're the politicians and we're the best-placed people to do that."
He said the time would also be used to determine how to communicate the Nphet advice well.
He said: "We don't want to be rushed into making decisions.
"That's going to be a changed approach and it's very much part of the new plan."
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Mr Varadkar has said there's "growing confidence" that a Covid-19 vaccine will be available in the first half of next year.
But he warned that until that happens it will be "a game of cat and mouse" and that "does mean local restrictions of different levels being turned on and off for the next couple of months".
However, he added: "There is hope on the horizon, a lot of progress is being made in terms of the vaccine.
"And I think there's growing confidence that in the first half of the new year, we'll be in a position to vaccinate older people, those most at risk and healthcare workers.
"That could change things, and change things for the better. But where we are at the moment, I think we're going to be for the next six months at least, unfortunately."