- Government approves additional public health measures to help to respond to the spread of Omicron Variant of COVID-19.
- Economic and income support schemes to be reviewed in light of these latest restrictions of businesses capacity to operate.
Cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 have risen rapidly in Ireland over recent days, with the latest data indicating that approximately 35% of new cases are due to the Omicron variant.
This new variant is believed to be many times more transmissible than the preceding Delta variant and, as such, is likely to result in a major increase in cases, which will place severe pressure on our wider health and social care system.
In that light, Government agreed that the early introduction of additional measures is necessary to slow the spread and mitigate potentially more severe impacts on the community of severe illness and mortality.
Public Health Measures
Following public health advice, the following measures will be introduced with effect from 20th December (i.e. midnight Sunday) until 30th January and will be kept under review in the intervening period.
- All restaurants, bars and cafes, excluding take-away or delivery services, will close at 8pm. This will also apply to hotel restaurants and bars, except for overnight residents.
- No indoor events, including entertainment, cultural, community and sporting events, will take place after 8pm in line with the above for the hospitality sector. In relation to events happening earlier in the day, attendance should be limited to 50% of venue capacity or 1,000 attendees, whichever is the lower. This includes cinemas. This does not affect religious, educational or normal workplace business activity and business events e.g. conferences, trade fairs.
- Attendance at outdoor events, including entertainment, cultural, community and sporting events, should be limited to 50% of venue capacity or 5,000 attendees, whichever is the lower.
- Wedding receptions can take place with a capacity limit of 100 guests and continue after 8pm. Midnight closing time still applies.
- The existing restrictions due to expire on 9th January will be extended until 30th January and will be kept under review in the intervening period.
Economic and Income Supports
While the full range of supports which have so effectively protected businesses and workers throughout the pandemic remain in place for period ahead, including PUP, EWSS, CRSS and rates waiver, relevant schemes will be reviewed in light of these latest restrictions of businesses capacity to operate. There will be further announcement in due course.
Restricted movement advice for all close contacts
Restricted movement advice for all close contacts (regardless of primary vaccination status) will be enhanced as follows:
- For those that have received a booster (effective from one week after receiving the booster dose): Restrict movements for 5 days with 3 antigen tests.
- For those that have not received a booster (including those not fully vaccinated): Restrict movements for 10 days. The HSE will consider the most appropriate testing schedule for this cohort.
The HSE will incorporate this into the advice for close contacts in the coming days.
There are specific arrangements already in place for healthcare workers that are close contacts and that this will continue.
This advice will be kept under constant review through the Senior Officials’ Group regarding impact on staffing levels on across all sectors and any contingency planning requirements.
Working from Home
Everyone should continue to work from home unless necessary to attend in person and everyone should plan on the basis that this guidance will apply until 30th January subject to the epidemiological situation at that time.
As regards international travel:
- All persons arriving into the State from overseas will continue to be required to have an antigen or PCR tests in line with their vaccination or recovery or unvaccinated status.
- All passengers arriving in Ireland should are now advised to conduct antigen testing on a daily basis for a period of 5 consecutive days commencing on day of arrival.
Restrictions specific to scheduled states where an “emergency brake” has been applied will be adjusted in line with the overall EU approach.
Key public health messages for the period ahead
The public health advice is that the future trajectory of COVID-19 remains uncertain. The steps everyone can take to help reduce the spread of the virus are:
- If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, stay at home and book a PCR test.
- Get your booster vaccine if you are eligible – being vaccinated offers good protection against severe illness and hospitalisation and lowers the risk to you and others.
- When it is time for your booster vaccination, you will get a text message from the HSE to attend one of their scheduled clinics, or you may attend a designated walk-in vaccination clinic for your age group. Vaccination centres and GPs continue to offer appointments to the priority groups identified by NIAC and people can also avail of walk in clinics at vaccination centres and through pharmacies both of which are listed on HSE.ie.
- We strongly advise you to check the HSE website and @hselive on Twitter which will continue to provide full updates in the coming days.
- If you are offered a booster appointment at a scheduled clinic, prioritise it.
- Remember to R.S.V.P. before you meet up with people – think of the Risk, Symptoms, Venue, People – go to gov.ie/riskaware to help assess the risk involved in any activities you have planned and the measures you can take to minimise your risk.
- Government advice is that everyone should take account of their overall health, their vaccine status, and the spread of Omicron in other countries before they decide to travel.
- To get further information before you travel, go to gov.ie/travel.