Ireland may be able to reopen more than planned on Dec.1, PM says

DUBLIN, Nov 11 (Reuters) - Ireland’s government may be able to reopen more of the economy than initially envisaged when the six week period at the highest level of COVID-19 restrictions ends on Dec. 1, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said on Wednesday.

Ireland shut non-essential retail and limited restaurants and pubs to takeaway three weeks ago under Level 5 curbs with the aim of returning to Level 3, which would reopen all shops but only allow outdoor food and drink service to small numbers.

Restaurants and pubs are pushing to be allowed operate under Level 2 restrictions for the busy Christmas period, which would permit customers to sit physically distanced inside with bars operating table service only.

Pubs that only serve drink opened briefly for the first time since March in mid-September, except for Dublin where they have not been allowed open for nine months.

“I did say on the record of the house (of parliament) that I wanted to get back to Level 3, that was a target but the data will inform how we might look at certain sectors as well and might moderate that,” Martin told parliament.

Ireland’s 14-day incidence of 152 cases per 100,000 is the fourth lowest of the 31 countries monitored by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), having fallen 51% compared to the previous two weeks.

The government has also eased some of the European Union’s toughest national travel restrictions, in line with the bloc’s new “traffic light” system, which will likely see many Irish people working abroad return home for Christmas. (Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Toby Chopra)