The Cabinet is planning to go ahead with plans to further ease remaining Covid-19 restrictions over the coming months despite concern regarding rising case numbers and hospitalisations in recent weeks.
On Sunday, the Department of Health confirmed 1,688 new cases of the virus, while there were 314 people in hospital, the highest number since March, 59 of whom were being treated in ICU.
According to The Irish Times, the Cabinet will meet on Friday to discuss a new roadmap for the further reopening of the country, including the return of live events, religious services and the return to the workplace.
As approximately 85 per cent of the Irish adult population is now fully vaccinated, a Cabinet source said there is a "strong case" to proceed with the planned easing of restrictions. It is expected the Government will publish the updated roadmap by August 31st.
However, the anticipated peak in cases associated with the Delta variant is causing concern among officials.
Speaking last week, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said: “We are concerned about the Delta variant and the increase in numbers. At a meeting last week, the CMO (chief medical officer) articulated that concern along with the Nphet representatives and the CEO of the HSE in terms of the impact on hospitalisations and ICUs.
“So we did anticipate this increase, we anticipate an increase over the next number of weeks. We have not reached the peak of the Delta wave yet, and of course any time the disease is increasing at this rate is a time for concern.”
Despite the concerns, the return of schools will proceed as planned, with some schools reopening from today.
Minister for Health Norma Foley has asked the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) to examine the role antigen testing could play in schools, and also, CO2 monitors will be rolled out in classrooms with a strong emphasis being placed on proper ventilation.