The Government and health officials have indicated that further restrictions could be eased later this month despite high Covid-19 case numbers.
As reported in The Irish Times, discussion at the Cabinet on Wednesday was “cautiously optimistic”, according to sources present, with Government forming a view that the worst of the pandemic has passed.
“The mood is becoming more optimistic,” said one Minister.
Meanwhile, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said the possibility of lifting Covid-19 restrictions on hospitality and other sectors was “all in play” next week when the impact of the Omicron variant will be considered in more detail.
Dr Holohan also said it was “fair” to question why hospitality settings would not be reopened fully when higher rates of infection among young people are likely to lead to a high level of population immunity.
According to Dr Holohan, The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) needed another week to ensure what they “might have feared” from Omicron had not played out.
Relaxing of isolation rules
On Wednesday, the Government signed off on plans to relax the rules for close contacts of Covid-19 cases, which will take effect from midnight on Thursday.
Nphet had recommended that people who are deemed close contacts but have received a booster vaccination and have no symptoms should no longer have to isolate for five days.
Those who have not received a booster should restrict their movements for seven days.
Several senior sources said if things go as expected in the coming weeks restrictions should be lifted in early February.
A Nphet meeting is scheduled for next week when the latest Covid-19 situation will be discussed.
Following the meeting, the Government will hope to be in a position to give clear signals about the plans for the lifting of restrictions in February.
It is understood that Ministers are eager to give businesses and sporting organisations as much notice as possible with large sporting events such as the Six Nations rugby championship coming up.
According to data from the Department of Health, the public is also growing more optimistic about the current wave, with more people believing the worst of the pandemic is over.