DUBLIN - Ireland raised doubts over its plans to drop almost all COVID-19 restrictions next week due to a rise in cases, with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe saying a full return of office workers was now unlikely.
Ireland has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world with 92% of adults fully protected but also one of the highest infection rates in Europe with around 400 cases per 100,000 people in the past 14 days.
With hospitalisations ticking up, though still far below peaks this year and last, ministers will discuss at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday whether this will push up critical care needs ahead of the busy winter period.
After one of Europe's toughest lockdowns, the government had planned to let nightclubs open for the first time in 20 months from Oct. 22, with other venues back at full capacity, and a requirement for vaccine certificates in bars and restaurants dropped.
"It is possible that some of the restrictions that are due to be lifted may not be, of course that's possible. We expected the figures would increase, the question is whether they are increasing to a level that means we have to reevaluate," Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told the Newstalk radio station.
But he said the government was reluctant to move away from the reopening plan.
Asked if there would be a major return of workers next week following last month's gradual reopening of offices, Donohoe said that was "a little less likely".
Sectors likely to be affected reacted with dismay.
"We've a full lineup of events, we started working on this six weeks ago, we've hired all our staff back ... We're just devastated," Ian Redmond, owner of Dublin's Tramline nightclub, told national broadcaster RTE.
"I just want certainty. Tell us we can open or we can't open. To leave it until the very last minute is just not fair."
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Giles Elgood)