Q&A: Clubs, Christmas parties and playdates - what do the new Covid restrictions allow?

Midnight closing time for hospitality will cover functions or weddings booked in hotels

Bars, restaurants and nightclubs will have a new closing time of midnight from Thursday, November 18th

Bars, restaurants and nightclubs will have a new closing time of midnight from Thursday, November 18th

 

In response to climbing infections and pressure on the health service, the Government announced further changes to Covid-19 restrictions on Tuesday in tandem with new public health advice. What will it mean for you?

Hospitality

Bars, restaurants and nightclubs will have a new closing time of midnight from Thursday, November 18th, with all customers required to be out of the premises by that time each night.

Late night hospitality was previously required to close by 11.30pm, before the rules were relaxed last month, allowing nightclubs to reopen for the first time since the early days of Covid-19.

While some nightclubs may opt to open at an earlier hour than normal, others in the sector will see the midnight curfew as an effective closure order .

Hotel bars and restaurants will also be covered by the midnight curfew, with an exception for guests staying in the hotel - as had previously been the case with restrictions on hospitality.

The midnight closing time will apply to functions booked in hotels, such as office work parties and weddings.

Christmas parties

There was no specific guidance or new regulations around office Christmas parties. However, Taoiseach Micheál Martin described recent decisions he had seen by large companies to cancel upcoming parties as “sensible”.

Similarly, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said cancelling office parties, or other social plans and get-togethers over the next number of weeks, would be “responsible decisions”. People had a responsibility to reduce their social contacts, he said.

Work from home

People have been advised to return to working from home “unless it is necessary” to attend the workplace in person. Many employers had been in the process of arranging employees to return to offices on a phased basis since late September.

Theatres and cinemas

The requirement to show a Covid pass, as proof of vaccination or recent recovery, has been extended to cinemas and theatres.

Before the passes were required for indoor hospitality, as well as live music events, nightclubs and for international travel.

Some cinemas and theatres had already required customers to show Covid certs, but the latest change will make the requirement mandatory.

There were discussions about whether the Covid pass would be extended to hairdressers and gyms, but they were not included in the latest announcement.

Playdates

While there is no recommendation around numbers attending events such as playdates or children’s birthday parties, Minister for Education Norma Foley said such activities should now be minimised.

“We need to be very vigilant and very restrictive in terms of our social engagements and that applies to families,” she said.

Close contacts

People who are close contacts of a confirmed Covid-19 case in their household are now advised to restrict their movements for five days, even if vaccinated.

Beforehand those who were fully vaccinated were not required to self-isolate or restrict their movements when listed as close contacts.

Labour leader Alan Kelly has said Mr Martin initially told him teachers would not be covered by these changes but the Taoiseach later said this was not correct and he made no such statement to Mr Kelly.

Pandemic Unemployment Payment

The Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) scheme, set up to support people who lost their jobs due to Covid-19, will not be reopened.

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said there were plenty of vacancies elsewhere in the hospitality and retail sector, for nightclub staff who may lose their jobs. Nightclub owners could avail of the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme to continue to pay staff, she said.

Antigen tests

A plan to subsidise antigen tests to encourage wider use is due in the coming days, which is expected to see the costs of the rapid tests brought down from around €8 to €3 per test. Further measures around the use of antigen tests in schools will also be announced by the end of this week.

The Health Service Executive currently posts packs of five free antigen tests to people listed as close contacts who do not have symptoms.