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Coronavirus: Ireland to ease restrictions for 'close to two weeks'

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image captionConsideration is being given to allowing three households to mix during the festive period

The Irish government plans to ease Covid restrictions for "close to two weeks" over Christmas.

Tighter rules will only be brought back in if virus rates are increasing, according to the tánaiste (Irish deputy prime minister).

Leo Varadkar said it made sense to ease restrictions "in phases" and a full reopening next week was "not safe".

Gyms, retail, hairdressing and personal services will reopen first, he confirmed.

The reopening of bars and restaurants next week has not been ruled out, according to the tánaiste, but he said it was still "a matter of discussion".

He added that as virus rates in the Republic were lower than in the UK, the Irish government hoped to ease restrictions for longer than the five days being allowed there.

Mr Varadkar said consideration was being given to allowing three households to mix during the festive period, like the four UK nations.

image copyrightEPA
image captionLeo Varadkar said that restrictions would not be tightened in the New Year just for the sake of it, RTÉ reports

The Republic of Ireland is currently under level five restrictions, the highest level of its Covid-19 tier system.

Under the rules, people can only exercise within 5km (three miles) of their home, many non-essential shops are shut and takeaway services can only be offered by bars and restaurants.

A final decision is set to be taken on new restrictions by the Irish government after a cabinet meeting at 13:00 local time on Friday, RTÉ reports.

On Wednesday, a further six deaths linked to Covid-19 were reported, bringing the Republic of Ireland's total to 2,033.

There have been 71,187 confirmed cases of the virus after an additional 269 positive tests were recorded.

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