The Cabinet is likely to endorse National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) recommendations that children aged 9 and over wear masks in school and reduce indoor socialising when it meets on Tuesday.
But according to The Irish Times, the Government will not make these legal requirements, instead leaving them as recommendation to schools and parents, while asking them to curtail their children’s contacts.
Ministers are also expected to discuss proposed requirements for incoming travellers to have a negative PCR or antigen test within 48-72 hours before they travel to Ireland, as part of precautions to delay the spread of the new Omicron variant of Covid-19.
While discussions were continuing last night, it is expected that this will apply to people travelling from all overseas jurisdictions, including Britain.
On children’s gatherings, it is understood there won’t be a blanket ban on playdates or attending pantomimes. However, one source told The Irish Times that the advice to parents could be that if they were considering both activities for their children in the same week they should only do one.
In general, the advice for children will be the same as for adults to reduce socialising.
The leaders of the Government parties and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly were briefed by senior Nphet figures including chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan on Monday evening on the current situation and on the emerging threat from the new variant.
A Government source said there were some indications that the new variant could turn out to be more transmissible but less severe than the Delta variant.
Countries all over Europe have tightened restrictions on people travelling from southern Africa, where the new variant was first confirmed, while cases have been identified in several EU countries since the weekend.
Legislation to revive mandatory hotel quarantine – which was in place earlier this year but which has lapsed from the statute books – will be rushed through the Dáil this week, if the Cabinet approves on Tuesday.