It’s too early to ditch Covid-19 restrictions completely.
That’s the consensus in Government today, as the Cabinet, on the advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) finally released its decision on the planned lifting of pandemic rules this Friday, October 22nd.
Addressing the media from Government Buildings this afternoon, Taoiseach Michéal Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister for the Environment, Eamon Ryan, laid out the next steps to take us from now until spring 2022.
With 1,578 additional cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the past 24 hours, 484 patients in hospital and 73 of those patients in intensive care, health officials and hospital staff have issued red flag warnings about the worrying surge in infections.
Meanwhile, as Cork gears up for the return of the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival on Friday, Covid certificates, social distancing rules and mask-wearing will remain in place in an effort to slow the spread of the disease.
“It’s going to be like this for a few months.” said the Tánaiste, adding that Ireland is likely facing a ‘twin peak’ that NPHET expects to peak in early November, when hospitalisations are likely to top 1000.
“We’re going to have to live with Covid. It’s not going to be easy and it’s going to mean having to adjust to a new normal, at least for another few months,” he said.
Here are the key changes announced today:
Digital Covid Certificates
Vaccine certs will continue to be a requirement for customers visiting hospitality settings until spring 2022 at the earliest. Table service will remain in place with a maximum of ten adults and 15 people, including children.
Nightclubs will be allowed to reopen on Friday, with strict rules in place for revelers and guidance set to be issued in the coming days. Experts say ventilation will be key in helping keep venues safe. Digital certs will be required on entry and capacity and various sector practicalities need to be ironed out.
The Taoiseach confirmed that dancing will be allowed.
— VFI (@VFIpubs) October 19, 2021
Weddings and religious events
There will be no limit on the number of wedding guests permitted at a private event or religious ceremony.
It’s likely that people aged over 60 will soon be able to avail of a Covid-19 booster vaccine shot as part of new plans to halt the resurgence of the disease during the winter months. Recommended by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC), booster shots are already available to people aged 80 or older, or 65 or older and living in a nursing home or long-term care facility.
Oddly, there is no mention of healthcare workers in the first groups eligible for booster shots.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has confirmed rapid antigen tests will be distributed to fully vaccinated people who are close contacts of Covid-19 patients.
No fixed capacity for outdoor sporting events. Plans are to be put in place to allow for the return of full crowds to large sports venues and stadium events, with protective measures.
Masks outdoors will be encouraged but not mandatory.
Employers are encouraged to continue to support working from home for the time being, bringing employees back into offices gradually over the coming months.,