A major easing of Covid-19 restrictions is expected to be announced this week, amid growing optimism that a surge in infections driven by the Omicron variant has peaked.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) will meet on Thursday, with Government Ministers expecting the public health officials to issue advice on the rolling back of restrictions.
Senior Government sources told the Irish Examiner it is their expectation that Nphet will approve a new closing time of midnight for all licensed premises, with pubs and restaurants currently required to shut at 8pm.
It is also expected that full capacity will be permitted at outdoor sporting events, which will impact the upcoming Six Nations rugby championships and GAA league matches.
A relaxation on the numbers allowed to attend indoor entertainment and sporting events is also expected, along with an increase of the current limit of 100 people at weddings and funerals.
Senior sources also said they expect a restart of the move to allow workers to return to the office on a phased basis.
It is expected that any easing of restrictions will come into force at the end of the month and a Cabinet meeting could be called for Friday to approve the Nphet recommendations.
Government sources have indicated Ministers are satisfied that hospital and intensive care capacity has held firm in the face of surging case numbers over the last four weeks.
It comes as more than 10,000 cases of Covid-19 were reported in Ireland on Monday, with 6,329 confirmed by PCR test while 4,810 people registered a positive antigen test through the HSE portal.
Pressure remains on the hospital system, with 13 hospitals having no available intensive care unit (ICU) or high dependency unit (HDU) beds.
There were just 17 adult and eight paediatric beds available across the country as of 8pm on January 16th, including six that were being held in reserve.
Amid calls for an easing of rules impacting the hospitality sector, the World Health Organisation’s special convoy on Covid cautioned earlier on Monday that restrictions should not be eased because the sector is facing difficulty.
Any decisions should be made on the basis of the health risk, he said.
The chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, Adrian Cummins, has said the current 8pm closing time is "effectively a lockdown for hospitality".