Growing expectation country will move to higher level of Covid-19 restrictions

No major decisions are expected tonight on the level of Covid-19 restrictions to apply to the country, senior Government sources have said.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar left Government Buildings on Saturday evening, with no Cabinet meeting taking place on Saturday night, or currently scheduled for Sunday.

However, none of the other senior politicians attending the meeting were seen leaving the building, with talks continuing late last night.

Sources said the meeting of six of the State’s most senior politicians examined the options available to the Government and the implications of the decisions to be taken.

There is a growing expectation among some Cabinet ministers that the country will be moved to a higher level of alert in the coming days, but that it will fall short of the Level 5 for six weeks recommendation made by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

Sources said that pushback is expected over implementing some elements of Level 5, such as the closure of some sectors of the economy, and the stipulation that people must not travel more than five kilometres from their home. The six week duration recommended by Nphet is also likely to be resisted.

A briefing of Fine Gael cabinet ministers by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, scheduled to take place at 7pm on Saturday, has been pushed back to 11am Sunday.

Saturday night’s meeting was attended by Mr Varadkar, Taoiseach Micheal Martin, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly. Before it began, the Taoiseach had a private meeting with Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan and Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn.

The two Nphet members, alongside Prof Philip Nolan, who is also on the team, gave a presentation to the wider group of senior politicians which continued for several hours. Paul Reid, the chief executive of the Health Service Executive, also briefed the group.