Irish minister confident of easing COVID curbs from February

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DUBLIN, Jan 12 (Reuters) – Ireland should be in a position to start easing restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19 from next month once the number of people requiring critical care remains stable, a senior minister said on Wednesday.

Ireland has the second highest incidence rate of COVID-19 in Europe but also one of the continent’s highest uptake of booster vaccines, helping keep the number of patients in intensive care stable and well below the peak of previous waves of the disease.

The cabinet agreed on Wednesday to scrap the isolation period for boosted people who have been in close contact with someone testing positive for COVID-19 and Communications Minister Eamon Ryan said he hoped to offer companies further respite next month.

“I am very confident we will be able to ease restrictions as we go into February. The science says that this will be a short wave, if we can get through it with our hospital numbers down, then we will be able to start lifting restrictions,” Ryan, the leader of the junior coalition Green Party, told reporters.

The government shut nightclubs and cut capacity at indoor events in early December before widening the constraints on crowds and ordering bars and restaurants to close at 8 p.m. two weeks later as the Omicron variant spread rapidly.

Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Tuesday that restrictions would likely be eased on a phased basis. Previously the government has lifted the most recently imposed curbs first and further reopened the economy every two to three weeks.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Alison Williams)

Photo – The Molly Malone Statue on Suffolk Street in Dublin City centre, Ireland. EC Audiovisual Service

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