The Republic of Ireland will head back into Level 5 restrictions, with some adjustments, this Thursday, December 24, Christmas Eve.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said in a televised address on December 22: "Unfortunately, in the last week, we have seen extraordinary growth in the spread of the virus. This is the same pattern that we have seen in the UK and across Europe.
"Just this morning, figures suggest that we may now be seeing a daily growth rate of approximately 10%. This is very obviously a source of serious concern, and it is not sustainable.
"While we do not yet have firm evidence that the new, more virulent, strain of the Covid virus is in our country, the rate of growth over the last week tells me that the safest and most responsible thing to do is to proceed on the assumption that it is already here."
You can watch the Taoiseach's entire address here:
The Republic of Ireland only exited Level 5 and entered the less restrictive Level 3 earlier this month. The announcement that the Republic of Ireland will be re-entering Level 5 comes just days after Northern Ireland announced that it will be entering a six-week lockdown beginning December 26.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, December 22, the Irish government said: “The Government has today agreed that from midnight on 24th December until 12th January, Level 5 restrictions will apply nationally. There will be a number of specific adjustments to Level 5 and, in addition, certain transitional arrangements will apply during the Christmas period.
“The Government has considered a number of factors in arriving at this decision, including NPHET concerns at the rapid increase in COVID-19 case numbers over recent days.
“These include the nature of social interaction likely to take place over the Christmas period, with additional mixing between younger and older people, and the risk that this could lead to a wave of infection with a higher risk age profile.
“The Government has also considered the economic and social impacts of the re-introduction of Level 5 restrictions. The double rate of Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) will be paid for two weeks to businesses significantly impacted by the restrictions.
"Furthermore, businesses affected will be able to avail of commercial rates relief for the first three months of 2021. The Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) is also available to help maintain people in jobs, along with extensive tax warehousing arrangements, reduced VAT rates, the spend and stay scheme, a range of reduced-cost loans, grants and voucher schemes.
"In addition, the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment of up to €350 per week will continue to be available to all employees and the self-employed who have lost their job due to the pandemic.”
The government made the following exceptions to Level 5:
- Non-essential retail may remain open. The retail sector will be requested to defer January sales events.
- Gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools may remain open for individual training only.
- Hotels may only open for essential non-social and non-tourist purposes except for guests who already have a booking and are due to check in up to and including the 26th December.
- You must remain within your county (as opposed to within 5K of your home) apart from travel for work, education or other essential purposes.
- Non-contact training in pods of up to 15 may take place outdoors.
- No matches/events should take place except for professional and elite sports, horse racing, greyhound racing and approved equestrian events behind closed doors.
- Golf and outdoor tennis can continue within county.
Here are the new changes coming into effect across the Republic of Ireland on December 24:
Social and family gatherings
- If you live alone - you can form a support bubble with another household.
- Current provisions (visits from up to 2 other households) remain in place up to and including 26 December.
- Visits to private homes/gardens will be allowed from one other household up to and including 31 December. In both cases, for those who are part of a support bubble, the bubble counts as one household.
- From 1 January no visitors are allowed in private homes/gardens except for essential family reasons, such as providing care to children, elderly or vulnerable people, or as part of a support bubble.
- Up to and including 2 January, 25 guests can attend a wedding ceremony and reception, whether indoors or outdoors.
- From 3 January, up to 6 guests are permitted.
Organised indoor gatherings
- These are controlled environments with a named event organiser, owner or manager.
- For example: business, training events, conferences, events in theatres and cinemas or other arts events (excluding sport).
- No organised indoor gatherings should take place.
Organised outdoor gatherings
- These are controlled environments with a named event organiser, owner or manager. For example: outdoor Arts events, training events.
- No organised outdoor gatherings should take place.
Exercise and sporting events
- Outdoor golf and tennis are permitted.
- No training or matches should take place, with the following exceptions:
- non-contact training in pods of up to 15 may take place outdoors
- professional, elite sports, horse-racing and greyhound racing and approved equestrian events are permitted to continue behind closed doors
- All other training activities should be individual only.
- No exercise or dance classes are permitted.
- Gyms, leisure centres, and swimming pools may remain open for individual training only.
- Christmas religious services may take place.
- Religious services will move online after 25 December.
- Places of worship may remain open for private prayer.
- Up to 10 mourners can attend.
Museums, galleries and other cultural attractions
- All venues closed.
- Libraries will be available for online services only.
Bars, cafes and restaurants (including hotel restaurants and bars)
- Cafes, restaurants, and pubs operating as restaurants will close for onsite dining at 3 pm on 24 December. After this, they can only offer delivery and takeaway food.
- Hotels may provide food and bar services to guests only after that point.
- Nightclubs, discos and casinos will remain closed.
Hotels and accommodation
- Hotels, guesthouses, and B&Bs may remain open, but only for essential non-social and non-tourist purposes.
- Hotels may provide food and bar services to guests only after 3pm on 24 December.
- Exception: Guests who already have a booking and are due to check-in up to and including 26 December.
Retail and services (for example: hairdressers, beauticians, barbers)
- Face coverings must be worn.
- All retail and essential services will remain open. This includes food shopping and marts.
- The retail sector is asked to defer January sales events.
- All other personal services, such as hairdressers, beauticians and barbers, are closed.
- You should work from home unless essential for work, which is an essential health, social care, or other essential service and cannot be done from home.
Domestic travel restrictions
- Stay at home.
- Exercise as close to home as possible.
- Travel outside your county will continue to be permitted up to and including 26 December. Those away from their place of residence after that period will be permitted to return to their place of residence.
- From 27 December you must stay within your county unless you need to leave for essential purposes, as follows:
- travel to and from work, where work involves providing an essential service
- to attend medical appointments and collect medicines and other health products
- travel to attend disability day services
- travel to attend a court
- for vital family reasons, such as providing care to children, elderly or vulnerable people, and in particular for those who live alone but excluding social family visits
- for farming purposes (food production or care of animals)
- to attend a wedding or funeral
- to visit a grave
Schools and creches
- In line with current NPHET advice in respect of Level 5, schools, early learning, and childcare services will continue to remain open and are deemed essential.
Higher and adult education
- Primarily online with exemptions for essential onsite activities.
Outdoor playgrounds, play areas, and parks
- Open with protective measures in place.
- Face coverings must be worn.
- Walk or cycle where possible.
- Public transport will operate at 25% capacity for the purposes of allowing those providing essential services to get to work. Transitional arrangements will apply in light of the Christmas period.
- School transport is unaffected.
Social work and care services
- In line with NPHET advice on Level 5, social work and social care services, (including disability services, mental health services, child protection and welfare services, domestic, sexual, and gender-based violence services) and homeless services including homeless outreach services will remain open and are deemed essential.
Over 70 and medically vulnerable individuals
- Those aged over 70 and the medically vulnerable are advised to continue to exercise personal judgement.
- It is recommended that they stay at home as much as possible, limit engagement to a very small network for short periods of time, while remaining physically distanced.
- When taking exercise outdoors, it is important to maintain 2 metres distance from others and wash hands on returning home.
- It is recommended to shop during designated hours only, while wearing a face covering, and to avoid public transport.
Visiting long-term residential care facilities (nursing and care homes)
- Suspended, with the exception of visits required for critical and compassionate circumstances.