DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ireland is to scrap almost all its COVID-19 restrictions on Saturday after a major surge in infections did not lead to a significant increase in the numbers requiring intensive hospital care, a senior minister said. Ireland had the second highest incidence rate of COVID-19 in Europe just last week but also one […]
Ireland to drop almost all COVID restrictions
DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ireland is to scrap almost all its COVID-19 restrictions on Saturday after a major surge in infections did not lead to a significant increase in the numbers requiring intensive hospital care, a senior minister said.
Ireland had the second highest incidence rate of COVID-19 in Europe just last week but also one of the continent’s highest uptake of booster vaccines, which has helped keep the number of seriously ill people well below the previous peak.
Following advice from public health officials, the government decided that bars and restaurants will no longer need to close at 8 p.m., a restriction put in place late last year when the Omicron wave struck, or to ask customers for proof of vaccination.
Capacity in indoor and outdoor venues is also set to return to full capacity, paving the way for full crowds for next month’s Six Nations rugby championship.
Some measures, such as the need to wear a mask on public transport and in shops, will remain in place for now.
“I am so pleased to be able to say that as of 6 a.m. tomorrow, the vast majority of restrictions that have been in place for almost two years now, on and off, will be lifted,” Justice Minister Helen McEntee said in a video posted on Instagram following a government meeting.
“I don’t think any of us thought we’d actually be getting to this point as quickly as we are now,” she added. Prime Minister Micheal Martin was due to make a televised address to announce the measures.
The changes would put Ireland back in line with British-run Northern Ireland, which had less severe restrictions over Christmas and agreed to scrap vaccine passes on Thursday and reopen nightclubs next week.
Ireland’s hospitality sector, which has been particularly hard hit by one of Europe’s toughest lockdown regimes, welcomed the decision.
Nightclubs opened their doors for the first time in 19 months in October only to be shut again six weeks later.
While the economy recovered rapidly last year, around a third of employers have chosen to defer tax payments and the wages of one in 12 workers are still being supported by a state subsidy scheme set to end in April.
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin and Conor Humphries; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Alison Williams)