A further phased easing of restrictions, which will include the reopening of hairdressers, barbers, and non-essential retail in May, is to be discussed by the Covid sub-cabinet committee today.
The return of adult outdoor training as well as religious services is also on the cards and the Government is expected to provide a roadmap for the reopening of hospitality and a return to nationwide travel in June and July after a full Cabinet meeting on Thursday.
It is understood that consideration is being given to extending the so-called 'vaccine bonus' to those who have been fully vaccinated and one Cabinet source suggested that up to 1m people who have received a first shot could be rewarded with extra freedoms.
But Taoiseach Micheál Martin warned a premature reopening of society could risk a return to lockdown conditions which he wants to avoid.
His comments came at the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting and against the context of ten further deaths and 426 new cases of Covid-19 being confirmed.
Mr Martin told his colleagues that the approach will be one of caution as a potential spike in the autumn could have significant consequences.
He hit out at motions from TDs seeking to give relief to the hospitality sector claiming they "are not the best way to deal with matters".
This was following a motion from Clare TD Cathal Crowe seeking an early end to the ban on intercounty travel and a date for pubs to be able to re-open.
Dublin TDs John Lahart and Jim O’Callahgan raised the issue of large numbers of young people gathering to socialise and drink when no toilet facilities are accessible.
Mr Martin said such gatherings are potential super spreader events and are “of concern”.
But earlier in the day, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said people need to be "less puritanical" when it comes to criticising those who are enjoying themselves outdoors.
Mr Varadkar said socialising outdoors is “much, much safer” than indoors."I think we are just going to need to be a little bit more relaxed about people getting outdoors and maybe even enjoying themselves a bit outdoors,” he said.
The other main changes being considered are:
- Both the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are now recommended for people aged 50 and over;
- People who had a confirmed case of Covid-19 and are under-50 without any immunocompromised conditions can be considered fully vaccinated after just one dose of any vaccine;
- There will be a 12-week gap between doses of the AstraZeneca shot for people aged 50 or older who have already had their first dose, and for people under 50 who are at very high or high risk of severe Covid disease;
- A 16-week gap between AstraZeneca doses for people under 50 without a very high or high risk of severe Covid disease and who had their first AstraZeneca dose already is recommended. This is reiterated as allowing for more assessment of emerging evidence around the risks and benefits.