The country is set to move back to level 3 restrictions from next week, but the Taoiseach has cast doubt over large gatherings involving alcohol.

The Cabinet remain at odds over whether pubs and restaurants should fully reopen ahead of the busy Christmas period, and final decisions around the easing of these restrictions are not expected to be hammered out until Thursday

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said shops will reopen from December 1.

He said the Government will be "flexible" in terms of guidance that they will give families, particularly on Christmas week itself, but cautioned that "individual behaviour" and "our own collective behaviour is going to be critical" on how we get through the festive season.

Clear divisions are emerging within Government over the level of restrictions that should be implemented in the coming weeks, with some ministers arguing that so-called wet pubs should stay shut. 

However, others believe that if restaurants are allowed to serve customers indoors, then all other establishments should also be permitted to reopen.

Mr Martin also said the rollout of an effective vaccine in the first half of 2021 would spark a "rebound for the economy".