The Taoiseach has told his party colleagues that people will be able to have an enjoyable, safe and meaningful Christmas.

Micheál Martin said the Government will make a decision next week on how the country will exit Level 5 restrictions in early December.

He told his parliamentary party that it will be about trusting people to stay safe over the Christmas period.

The easing of restrictions is set to be debated in the Dáil on Tuesday before the Government makes a decision later in the week.

Mr Martin suggested the decision-making process will not be easy, but said the country would exit the restrictions as the third best in Europe when it came to tackling Covid-19.

The meeting also heard calls from Laois–Offaly TD Barry Cowen that there should be immediate consultation with the hospitality sector.

He said this could focus on drafting new guidelines, if they were necessary, to allow for customers to eat and drink indoors.

However, he said it was too early to make a decision on reopening at this stage.

Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien said the Government will be publishing its plan next week on how we exit Level 5.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, he said we must do this safely, and we cannot "give away the gains we have made".

He said he knows it's tough, but they are asking people to "stick with this".

Minister O'Brien said that in the context of a global pandemic, what the Government has had to deal with is "not an easy thing".

Not everything has been perfect, he said, but the country is "doing pretty well in managing this".


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At a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party, Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris said it was vital that as many additional people as possible were hired to carry out contact tracing.

He said there had been a lot of great support from the Army in the past and asked if they might provide assistance again.

The meeting heard criticism of the moving of frontline health workers to contact tracing duties.

Meanwhile, the National Public Health Emergency Team will meet again today amid rising concerns that the progress in tackling Covid-19 nationally appears to have slowed significantly over the past week.