All but essential construction work will shut down from Friday evening as part of the national effort to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O'Brien, said the shutdown was "necessary" as part of wider measures aimed at halting the current trajectory of the virus.
Some 7,836 new cases of Covid-19 were reported on Wednesday, the highest daily total since the start of the pandemic.
A very limited number of essential sites and a small number of designated social housing projects due to be completed within eight weeks will be allowed to continue. The Cabinet also agreed that construction and work relating to the day-to-day operation of water, wastewater, and gas infrastructure remain essential.
Outbreaks relating to the industry represent 0.6 per cent of all coronavirus clusters since August.
A spokeswoman for Mr O’Brien said around 1,400 social housing units would be completed by the end of next month but the restrictions would “of course” have a negative impact on social housing targets.
Under the new restrictions announced on Wednesday, construction will be closed with effect from 6pm on Friday next January 8th except for the construction or development of:
- essential health and related projects including those relevant to preventing, limiting, minimising or slowing the spread of Covid-19
- A limited number of social housing projects, including voids, designated as essential sites by local authorities based on set criteria (projects due to be completed in the next six to eight weeks)
- housing adaptation grants where the homeowner is agreeable to adaptions being undertaken in their home
- repair, maintenance and construction of critical transport and utility infrastructure
- education facilities sites designated as essential by Department of Education
- supply and delivery of essential or emergency maintenance and repair services to businesses and places of residence (including electrical, gas, plumbing, glazing and roofing services) on an emergency call-out basis
- certain large construction projects in the exporting/FDI sector based on set criteria.
In relation to private homes that are practically complete and scheduled for habitation by 31 January 2021, including where snagging, and essential remediation work, such as pyrite works is nearing completion, works should continue to enable homeowners access their homes.
Heating, water, broadband and electricity installation should also continue to enable homes be occupied.
Existing tenancy protections mean that a tenant cannot be evicted from their home during the period of the 5km travel restrictions.
The Minister acknowledged that closing most construction sites will have an impact on 2021 housing delivery targets, but he said his department will do “whatever is necessary to make up as much ground as possible as restrictions ease”.
He said the health and safety of 200,000 people working directly and indirectly in construction is the top priority.
Only Ireland, Italy, and the United States shut down construction during earlier lockdowns, according to the Construction Industry Federation. Tom Parlon, its director general, said it will take months to calculate the impact the decision to shut down work sites will have on the industry.
“The previous lockdown may have resulted in 5,000 fewer homes than expected in 2020,” he said in a statement.
Mr Parlon said the industry has had an “excellent track record” at keeping Covid-19 off sites and managing it on sites. He said there was never a point over the last nine months where a site recorded more than 56 cases. The rate of infection among construction workers has been considerably lower than in the general population, he added.
The organisation is advocating for the sector to reopen on January 31st.