Covid restrictions to be lifted from 6am on Saturday – Archyde

Coronavirus-Wandgemälde (Brian Lawless/PA)

© Brian Lawless
Coronavirus-Wandgemälde (Brian Lawless/PA)

Cabinet has signed plans to lift the vast majority of Covid-19 restrictions from Saturday morning.

Workers will return to offices in a staggered manner from Monday, while normal hospitality hours resume this weekend under plans approved on Friday.

Social distancing measures and restrictions on gatherings will be scrapped, as will the requirement to show Covid-19 passes to access pubs and restaurants.

Mask-wearing is set to last until the end of February, self-isolation for symptomatic people will remain in place and Covid passports will still be required for international travel.

But all other restrictions will be lifted from 6am on Saturday, sources told the PA news agency.

Nphet has told the government that while most pandemic rules can be lifted, they should be phased out.

Previously, Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said there was no basis for the restrictions to apply without a public health justification, but said it could take time to lift the laws underlying them.

He told reporters on Friday: “The Taoiseach will make an announcement at six o’clock.

“Certainly I think that the view across government is that when there is no longer any justification for a particular public health restriction, there is no longer any political justification.

“But there are things that need to be worked out to make something that is currently illegal legal.

“It may require a ministerial regulation to be repealed, sometimes primary law needs to be repealed. So there remains a bit of work on the timing today.

“And then also a lot of work on the business supports and making sure that they are not removed too suddenly.”

Ireland’s cabinet will later meet to consider recommendations from health chiefs to lift most of the Covid restrictions.

Nphet has recommended lifting restrictions around hospitality, including the 8pm curfew and requiring a Covid passport to enter the premises.

In light of the recommendations, the Restaurants Association of Ireland had urged the government to allow all hospitality businesses to trade as usual from Friday.

But Tanaiste has downplayed the prospect of an immediate lifting of hospitality restrictions.

“Nphet’s recommendation is incremental. But the details and timing around the stages need to be discussed and decided today,” he said.

Nphet met on Thursday and made a number of recommendations in a letter to ministers.

These include allowing live venues and sports venues to return to full capacity, an end to restrictions on the number of household guests and a gradual return to work.

However, continued wearing of face masks is recommended on public transport and retail, and Covid passports are still required for international travel.

Mr Varadkar has warned that the return of restrictions cannot be ruled out, saying some measures, such as mask-wearing, could be maintained in the future.

“This is a virus that has surprised us on many occasions and it is a virus that likes to thwart our plans,” he said.

“Nobody can rule out another wave after Omicron. Immunity is waning, there will be new worrisome variants and of course respiratory viruses spread more easily in winter.

“So nobody can rule out the possibility of a fifth wave. No one can say for sure if that would be mild or severe.

“But I think that’s why it’s important that we continue to build on some of the changes that have been made during the course over the past two years.”

He said the government must continue to increase capacity in hospitals and intensive care units, and hire more doctors, nurses and midwives for healthcare.

He added: “And we need to put surveillance systems in place to ensure we can quickly identify new variants and quickly identify their spread.

“I also think there will be a big focus on lasting changes in the way we act as individuals.

“I think we could all choose to wear masks in certain settings in the future, especially when we have symptoms.

“We can all choose not to go to work or work from home if we have certain symptoms.”

Mr Varadkar also commended the Irish people, healthcare workers and the corporate sector for their response during the pandemic.

“The only thing I want to say is a special thank you to the Irish people. It’s been two very long years,” he said.

“It’s certainly not over yet, but we’re in a much better place than we were before.

“And that’s really because of a world-leading vaccine program. I really want to thank HSE, their employees and contractors for all the work they have done on this.

“To the Irish people for their support for vaccination, which has made a huge difference and has put us in a better position than many other countries who are really struggling at the moment.

“And also to say thank you to Irish business owners and workers because some people have had a really bad two years in some sectors and hopefully the future will be looking a little brighter for them by spring.”

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