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Ireland ramps up restrictions to halt the Omicron variant

Ireland ramps up restrictions to halt the Omicron variant

Nightclubs close; events are capped at 50 percent; home visits will be limited; bars and restaurants must ensure strict social distancing

Following “very stark” warnings from NPHET regarding the new Omicron variant, the Irish government has announced additional Covid-19 restrictions on top of the revised travel rules with mandatory hotel quarantine and mask recommendation for children.

The harsh curbs, outlined by Taoiseach (PM) Micheál Martin in a speech on Friday night, will take effect on Tuesday, 7 December and will last until 9 January.

Restrictions at a glance

Under the new measures, nightclubs will again close (they have stayed shut for more than 18 months until October).

Bars and restaurants, including those at hotels, must ensure strict social distancing with:

  • table service only
  • 1 metre spacing between tables
  • up to six adults seated per table
  • no multiple table bookings
  • mask-wearing when not at the table
  • closing time at midnight

Capacity at entertainment, cultural, community and sporting events is capped at a maximum of 50 percent. All attendees must be seated and wear face masks at all times unless eating or drinking. Covid Pass will be required for entering gyms and leisure venues as well as hotel bars and restaurants.

Private home visits should be kept to a maximum of four households in total, including the host family, at any time.

Sobering slap in the face

The new restrictions have come as a slap in the face of the hospitality and entertainment industries which have endured on-and-off shutdowns in the course of the pandemic. Promoters are complaining that the event capacity limit will make concerts unprofitable. Addressing the industry’s fears for their livelihood, the Prime Minister promised that the financial supports for the affected sectors will be extended.

One case of Omicron variant so far

With more than 5000 confirmed cases, infections in Ireland are nearing record highs, in spite of 91 per cent of the eligible adult population (over the age of 12) being fully vaccinated. Deaths, however, remain low.

Ireland has so far identified just a single case of the new Omicron variant, but Martin warned that daily Covid-19 case numbers, even though stabilizing, “are still very high’’.

"Every time we have faced a new challenge we have pulled together as a nation and done what was needed. I’m asking us all to do that again. Further study and examination in the weeks ahead may discover that Omicron does not represent a more deadly threat. And, if that is the case, it will come as a great relief to us all, but we simply cannot take that risk with people’s lives and health," said Martin in his speech which was disseminated by the government’s press service.

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