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Older people will be told to limit time outdoors and family gatherings to be reduced to six to try to stall resurgence of Covid-19

But ministers say Nphet 'out of kilter' with other European nations


Action: Medical staff at a temporary testing centre in Newbridge, Co Kildare yesterday. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Action: Medical staff at a temporary testing centre in Newbridge, Co Kildare yesterday. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Action: Medical staff at a temporary testing centre in Newbridge, Co Kildare yesterday. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Older and vulnerable people are to be told to limit their time outdoors again and family gatherings indoors will be reduced to just six people under the National Public Health Emergency Team's (Nphet) plan to try stall the resurgence of Covid-19.

Ministers must today decide whether to reverse major parts of their plan for reopening the country.

Just two weeks ahead of the scheduled reopening of schools, health chiefs are warning that vulnerable people will need to limit the time they spend outdoors. The rise in cases over the past two weeks is having a knock-on effect on numbers being treated for the virus in hospitals.

As a result, older people will be asked to restrict their movements and avoid congregated settings under new advice from public-health experts.

Nphet has also recommended that only six people should be permitted in a home from three separate houses in a bid to clamp down on house parties and outdoor home gathering should be reduced to 15 people.

People who can work from home will also be asked to do so for the coming weeks. The Cabinet will meet to discuss the recommendations today.

Meanwhile, there are serious concerns in Fine Gael over the severity of Covid-19 restrictions being recommended by Nphet.

Cabinet ministers are becoming increasingly frustrated with Nphet advice on the pandemic as they believe it is out of kilter with advice being put forward by public-health experts in other EU countries. Increasing frustration over Covid-19 restrictions is expected to play out when the Cabinet meets today. Fine Gael ministers are expected to push for less restrictive measures despite the increase in new cases.

A Cabinet source said there were concerns at the highest ranks of Cabinet that Nphet had "departed from the European mainstream in the severity of their advice" as they are "under pressure from academic commentators as opposed to solid science".

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"Many countries have similar incidence or much higher incidence of Covid to Ireland and have schools open and bars open, international travel within Europe is allowed, as are gatherings of up to 5,000 people," the source said.

The senior minister also raised concerns about the interaction between Government and Nphet since Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan and was replaced by Dr Ronan Glynn.

"When Tony was there none of the letters were written without being discussed or agreed with government first," the source added.

Another Cabinet source said a split had emerged in Nphet over the strictness of recommendations being put forward for Government to rule on. The Cabinet will meet for the first-time in two weeks today to discuss the latest round of advice from the public-health experts with new cases of the coronavirus continuing to mount up in recent days.

The last two major decisions on Covid were taken through incorporeal cabinet meetings where ministers are called and asked to agree to a memo.

Today's Cabinet meeting was scheduled late on Monday after Nphet informed Health Minister Stephen Donnelly of their latest round of advice. Only a Cabinet sub-committee meeting had been organised for this morning until the advice was received.

Nphet was asked by the Government to hold an emergency meeting yesterday after more than 200 new cases were recorded on Saturday. The new recommendations are aimed at stamping down on house parties, protecting older people and lessening the number of people travelling to work who don't need to.

Despite growing public concern over the rise in new cases, Nphet did not hold a press conference after their meeting and the Department of Health said they would not be informing the public of the advice until today at the earliest. It comes as the number of patients hospitalised with Covid-19 has risen, stoking new fears that the upsurge in infection is leading to an increase in serious illness.

There were 21 confirmed cases in hospital yesterday morning, up from 13 at the weekend and eight of these patients were in intensive care.

The trend in patients hospitalised with the virus over three days is the highest rise since mid-June.

Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland

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