The Cabinet looks set to not accept the latest NPHET advice to move the country to Level 5 restrictions when it meets in the morning. 

The Cabinet Covid Committee met this evening and, while it agreed on a set of new restrictions, it will recommend holding back from a full lockdown.

It is understood the Committee recommended that gastro pubs and restaurants will close from mid-afternoon on Christmas Eve.

Also closing will be cinemas, galleries and hairdressers. 

However, it is believed that some non-essential retail outlets, and gyms, could be allowed to stay open. 

The travel ban on Great Britain will be extended to 31 December.  

An agreed position has yet to be reached on inter-county travel and also home visits. 

It comes amid growing concern about the rising number of Covid-19 cases as well as the new strain of the virus in Britain.

Tonight, health expert Professor Philip Nolan said "we are clearly now in a third wave of this pandemic, with very rapidly rising case numbers".

Meanwhile, the Department of Foreign Affairs has announced consular flights and ferry access from Britain to Ireland to repatriate stranded Irish residents.

Earlier this morning, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the recent spike in coronavirus cases means it is likely that stricter measures will be reimposed sooner than expected.

He said while numbers in hospitals and intensive care units are low, there has been a significant spike in cases with a doubling effect over the last number of days.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications and Transport also said there is no evidence of the new strain of coronavirus discovered in the UK is in Ireland, but that labs are now checking every positive case to see, track and find it - if it is here.

Mr Ryan added that the key message to take away from the recent developments is that everyone should take the vaccine when it becomes available.

He said he believes that schools will reopen in January but all decisions will be made on medical evidence.