Ireland will be lifting almost all of its COVID restrictions from 6 am tomorrow, January 22, as per recommendations of Ireland’s National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).
Taoiseach Micheál Martin outlined the plans in a live address from Dublin on Friday evening, the day after the Cabinet received NPHET’s recommendations.
The Taoiseach said Ireland’s “world-class vaccination programme and the rollout of boosters has utterly transformed our situation.
“It was our vaccinations and boosters that prevented the recent wave of infection translating into much more serious levels of illness and death.
“Based on this evidence, we've concluded that the rationale and justification for continuing most of our public health restrictions are no longer in place.
“Therefore, from 6 am tomorrow morning, the majority of public health measures that we’ve had to live with will be removed.
"Guidance in relation to household visiting will no longer apply.
"Restrictions on capacity for all indoor and outdoor events will no longer apply.
"Closing time for hospitality and events will return to where it was before the pandemic.
"The COVID pass requirement for access to hospitality and indoor activities will no longer apply.
"The various requirements around managing people's movements at indoor hospitality and entertainment venues will no longer be required.
"And a phased return to the workplace for all staff will now commence.
"Because of the international situation, there are no changes to the current measures in place in relation to international travel.
"And a limited number of protective measures will remain in place for the coming month. Based on the advice of NPHET, the wearing of masks where they are currently required will continue. Similarly, protective measures will remain in place in primary and secondary schools.
"Also, the advice for those with symptoms, positive cases, and close contacts remains in place.
"These will be reviewed before the end of February by which time all children aged between 5 and 11 will have had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated."
The Taoiseach went on to say that "vaccination is key," and cautioned that "the pandemic isn't over."
He said: "The changes we are making will likely lead to a temporary rise in infections in the short-term, but we are advised that the impact of this rise will be limited by the scale of vaccination in the population.
"It is important also to say that I can't promise you there won't be further twists in this pandemic requiring different decisions in the future."
Towards the end of his speech, the Taoiseach said: "There is much to do, but today is a good day, and we should all take a moment to appreciate how far we've come."
Spring is coming, and I don't know if I've ever looked forward to one as much as I'm looking forward to this one. Humans are social beings, and we Irish are more social than most.
"As we look forward to this spring, we need to see each other again, we need to see each other smile, we need to sing again."
He concluded: "It is time to be ourselves again."
Ireland’s Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) has hailed the changes announced today as “monumental” for the industry that has been under restrictions for more than 670 days.
“Many glasses will be raised throughout the country in celebration this weekend,” the group said in a statement not long before the Taoiseach’s live address on Friday, adding that “feelings of joy, relief, and excitement are permeating throughout the sector.”
After thanking Ireland's health service and frontline workers, Donall O'Keeffe, Chief Executive of the LVA, said: " After 678 days of full or partial closure, our industry is going to take time to recover. We have not had anywhere near normal trading for more than 22 months now and businesses throughout the hospitality sector will need a little more assistance to get them back on their feet.
“We would like to see the Government maintain the supports they have been providing for the coming months. We are also seeking the waiving of the upfront Special Exemption Order fees required for late night venues during their initial period of reopening.
“For now we are just excited to see hospitality return and start getting back to normality. We can’t wait to see towns and cities around Ireland thriving again well into the night and the full return of Ireland’s world famous hospitality. We are also really looking forward to seeing our customers at bar counters once more.”