Life under Level 4: What restrictions will look like if lockdown is eased

Will schools reopen? Can I travel outside my county – How rules may change in five weeks

A Garda steps off a bus at a checkpoint in Dublin Airport during Covid-19 lockdown in late January, 2021. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

A Garda steps off a bus at a checkpoint in Dublin Airport during Covid-19 lockdown in late January, 2021. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times


While the country is currently in Level 5 of the Government’s Living with Covid-19 strategy until March 5th, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has told a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party that we may move to Level 4 measures or “Level 4 with modifications” in five weeks’ time.

Under the current Level 4 guidelines published by the Government, people are allowed to travel within their county while outdoor dining is also permitted, though reopening schools will likely take precedence above all else in terms of lifting restrictions.

So, what might Level 4 entail in just over a month’s time?

Q. Is the 5km limit still applicable or can I travel outside my county?

Under Level 4, people are asked to stay in their county unless they are travelling for essential work, education or other essential purposes.

Q. So, schools will reopen under Level 4?

The main priority under Level 4 is to keep schools and childcare services open. Talks between the Department of Education and unions are continuing this week with hopes that schools will be able to reopen on a phased basis between February and March. Special education is likely to be followed by primary schools, exam year groups and others.

Q. Am I allowed any visitors to my home?

No, there should be no visitors to a person’s home or garden, with the exception of visits for essential purposes. These include providing care to children, elderly or vulnerable people or as part of a support bubble.

Q. What about mass and funerals?

Religious services will be held online while places of worship remain open for private prayer. Up to 25 mourners can attend funerals (while in Level 5 this is limited to 10).

Q. How many people are allowed at weddings?

Up to six guests can attend a wedding ceremony and reception (which is the same number allowed under Level 5).

Q. Will any cafes, restaurants or even pubs be allowed to reopen?

Under Level 4, bars, cafes and restaurants can offer takeaway food and delivery while no indoor dining is allowed. Outdoor dining is allowed to a maximum of 15 patrons. Wet pubs can also reopen outdoors also, but this is to be limited to a maximum of 15 patrons. The hospitality sector is possibly where the Government might introduce some of the “modifications” it has mentioned.

Q. What about sport?

Non-contact training can take place outdoors but only in pods of up to 15. There is only to be individual training indoors and no exercise or dance classes can take place. No matches or events are to take place with an exception for professional and elite sport/inter-county/horse racing, which can take place behind closed doors.

Q. Will gyms, leisure centres or swimming pools be allowed to open?

No, they all remain closed under Level 4. Outdoor playgrounds, play areas and parks can stay open though.

Q. Can any non-essential retail open, or hairdressers/barbers?

Essential retail and businesses that are primarily outdoors only can remain open. All other retail and personal services, such as hairdressers, beauticians and barbers, are to stay closed.

Q. Do over-70s and medically vulnerable people have to cocoon?

Those aged over 70 years and over and the medically vulnerable should exercise judgment regarding the extent to which they engage with others and in activities outside home.

Q. Can I visit a relative in a nursing home?

Visits to long-term residential care facilities are suspended under Level 4 aside from “critical and compassionate circumstances”.

Q. Are organised indoor or outdoor gatherings allowed to take place such as conferences, events in theatres or other arts events?

No organised indoor gatherings should take place. Outdoor gatherings of up to 15 people can take place. Museums, galleries and other cultural attractions all remain closed under Level 4.

Q. What happens to hotels and similar accommodation?

These can remain open only to existing guests and those with “essential non-social and non-tourist purposes”.