Govt may permit inter-county travel until 6 January

People will still be permitted to travel between counties up until and including 6 January under plans being considered by the Government.

RTÉ News understands that restaurants and bars serving food will be allowed to continue trading up until 30 December.

The Cabinet is set to meet on Tuesday to discuss the latest proposals from the National Public Health Emergency Team, urging the closure of bars and restaurants from 28 December.

NPHET also advised a halt to inter-county travel and a limit on visitors to one other household. At present, up to three households can gather together until 6 January.

A number of ministers have privately indicated that they favour a less restrictive approach around the Christmas period.

Senior Government sources have told RTÉ News that plans are being considered to continue to allow inter-county travel up until 6 January.

The Government is also expected to agree that restaurants and bars serving food will be able to stay open until 30 December.

That is two days later than what NPHET advised, but a week earlier than previously planned.

Visitors will also be limited to one household from 30 December. This means the shutters are coming down on New Year's Eve celebrations.

Meanwhile, the Chief Medical Officer has asked for the public to do all they can to protect public health after a surge in cases of Covid-19 over the past five days. 

Dr Tony Holohan expressed significant concern about the case numbers and said that with vaccines offering hope in the coming months we want to keep our most vulnerable groups alive so they can receive it.

Yesterday, the Department of Health was notified of six further coronavirus-related deaths and 582 new cases.

The daily case numbers have now risen for four days in a row, suggesting a strong upward trend.

Dr Holohan said the situation is getting worse more rapidly than expected, and that the country simply cannot cope with this level of infection as we head into Christmas.

There were 201 patients with Covid-19 in Irish hospitals as of 8pm last night, according to the latest figures from the HSE, which is down slightly over the previous 24 hours.

The bulk of these patients were in Beaumont Hospital (38), Letterkenny (26) and Kilkenny (21).

There were also 222 suspected cases in hospitals, of which 132 were also in Beaumont.

Thirty-one confirmed Covid-19 patients were being treated in intensive care, of which 18 were on ventilators.

The bulk of patients in ICU are in Dublin with four in Tallaght, three in Beaumont, and three in the Mater.

As of last night, there were also 26 critical care beds available.

Meanwhile, the HSE Chief Executive has said that crews from the Irish National Ambulance Service worked with crews from Northern Ireland's Ambulance Service.

In a post on Twitter, Paul Reid said that the Irish National Ambulance Service worked in Belfast last night.

Tonight in Belfast, crews from the Irish National Ambulance Service working alongside colleagues from the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service. People's health taking priority #TeamWork #Proud @AmbulanceNAS @NIAS999 @HSELive #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/PIpcYFihA2

— Paul Reid (@paulreiddublin) December 18, 2020

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Additional reporting George Lee

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