During a briefing with business groups late last night, sources said Tánaiste Leo Varadkar explained that the aim of the incoming Level 5 restrictions is to get the country back to Level 3 by 1 December.

Under Level 3, restaurants, cafes and pubs can only remain open for takeaway and delivery and outdoor dining or service to a maximum of 15 people.

Level 2 would allow them to reopen indoor services so long as certain protections and restrictions are in place.

Several sources familiar with last night’s conference call confirmed Mr Varadkar indicated he was not optimistic that Level 2 would be reached in time for Christmas.

As a result, it will be trickier for hospitality businesses to operate over the period, the Tánaiste told those taking part in the briefing.

However, the belief now among those involved in the sector is that they will not be able to allow customers into their premises at Christmas and that they will be restricted instead to serving outdoors.

This would be extremely difficult for most establishments, given the likely weather conditions in December and the fact that many premises do not have outdoor seating areas.

The Tánaiste indicated that the hospitality sector should come back in a few weeks’ time and start a conversation with the Government about what Level 3 will look like for them when it arrives.

A spokesman for the Tánaiste said he had convened the virtual meeting of business leaders to hear their concerns and answer questions on Government assistance.

She added both the Taoiseach and Tánaiste said last night that the current trajectory would suggest that Level 3 is a realistic ambition for early December.

However, the situation will be kept under review throughout Level 5, and a clear exit strategy is in place based on the reproductive rate of the virus and the overall trend in case numbers.