Non-essential retailers around the country are finalising preparations ahead of reopening their doors for the first time in six weeks.

Level 5 restrictions will begin to ease tomorrow, with restaurants and gastro pubs following suit on Friday.

The Government expects to see new cases of Covid-19 increasing in two weeks' time, once restrictions are eased.

But Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said there is no intention to reimpose tighter restrictions unless there is a huge rise in cases.

To prevent that happening, the Government is advising people to be vigilant, plan ahead for Christmas and remember that every contact counts.

It has also announced a new social media campaign to give young people affected by Covid-19 restrictions an outlet to voice their experiences using the hashtag #antiviral.

A survey by the Central Statistics Office on the well-being and lifestyle of people under Level 5 restrictions, has found that 11.5% of respondents felt downhearted, or depressed, all or most of the time.

This compares with 5.5 % of respondents surveyed in April.

Meanwhile, the Government's Covid-19 vaccination task force will meet for the second time today.

The meeting comes as Minister Donnelly said a vaccination progamme was unlikely this year but could happen early in 2021.

Planning and preparation for a Covid-19 vaccine and how an immunisation programme in Ireland would work is continuing.

The task force has committed to providing a full national vaccination strategy and implementation plan to the Government by 11 December.

Minister Donnelly said it was unlikely vaccination would begin next month, but he said it could happen "potentially, early in the new year".

The timing would depend on which vaccine comes to the market first and, he said, it was likely healthcare workers, the elderly and vulnerable would be prioritised.

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Retailers say they're expecting a bumper spend in the run-up to Christmas and say they expect consumers to splash out an extra €1.2 billion in December.

Arnold Dillon Director of Retail Ireland said that the average spending is expected to be €700 per household - only slightly down on last year.

He said there is pent up consumer demand as people have saved an extra €6 billion in the first nine months of the year.

Many retailers are concerned about how to cope with the extra crowds from tomorrow and some shops will introduce extended opening times to stagger demand.

Tesco will open 24 hours, except Sunday, from 14 to 24 December while two Penneys stores will open tomorrow at 7am and then trade continuously for 39 hours.

Dundrum Town Centre will have crowd counters to help management limit crowds with marquee shelters set up for queues outside.

Centre Director Don Nugent said the crowd counter information will be available on their website so customers can judge when is best to visit.

Meanwhile, Mandate has warned that retail workers need to be paid according to their extra hours and to have proper safety precautions both in store and for travelling to and from work during unsocial hours.

Anne Graham of National Transport Authority has asked shoppers to travel only off peak and allow school children and essential workers space during peak times.

Capacity limits on trains, trams and buses is to be increased from 25% to 50% tomorrow.

Vaccine uptake important for suppression

The uptake of any Covid-19 vaccine would have to be between 60% and 70% for it to suppress the transmission of the virus in a meaningful way, according to Professor of Immunology at Maynooth University Paul Moynagh. 

He said that while a rollout of mass vaccinations will take some months at least, "'we should be in a good place by April or May".

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, Prof Paul Moynagh said the "proportional return" from six weeks of Level 5 restrictions was disappointing in terms of the cost to the economy and livelihoods and more targetted measures are needed going forward. 

He said it has yet to be seen whether the vaccines that come on the market protect against infection or disease, and while some vaccines do not prevent infection, but prevent a person getting very sick, these are useful in limiting the effects of a virus.

Additional reporting John Kilraine