Government to approve lifting of almost all Covid-19 restrictions today

Some Coalition sources surprised recommendations go further than expected

The Government will today approve the lifting of almost all Covid-19 restrictions, with the exact timetable to be agreed by Coalition leaders in advance of a special Cabinet meeting this afternoon.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) last night gave the go-ahead for the removal of almost all Covid restrictions and regulations, including a return to normal opening hours for hospitality expected soon and the end of the use of the digital pass for pubs and restaurants.

A phased return to work has also been recommended to give workplaces time to organise their own individual safety measures, a source said.

The recommendations were contained in a letter from Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan sent to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly last night. The Nphet letter came after days of signals from Government that it favoured an early end to restrictions, as evidence mounted that the peak of the Omicron wave had passed.


However, mask-wearing in certain environments, including public transport and shops, is likely to be retained for the time being. It is also expected that schools will remain subject to mask regulations for now.

Vaccination pass

While the requirement for the Covid-19 vaccination pass to access hospitality venues will be removed, it will remain for international travel.

Capacity restrictions for indoor and outdoor events are also set to be removed, meaning the Six Nations rugby games in February and March can go ahead with full capacity crowds.

Some Government sources expressed surprise that the recommendations went further than many expected, with one saying they represented a significant acceleration on the path out of the pandemic.

Rules relating to contact tracing and isolation will remain in place, a source said.

Both the Cabinet Covid-19 committee and a full Cabinet meeting will take place today and a decision will be made about the dates on which various restrictions will be lifted. It is expected the 8pm curfew, for example, could be lifted as early as this weekend, although sources said Government is keen to give the hospitality sector time to prepare.

The Restaurants Association of Ireland last night called on the Government to allow all hospitality businesses to trade as normal from today.

Licensed Vintners Association’s chief executive Donall O’Keeffe said the Government should “move swiftly” and that “hospitality is ready and waiting to open our doors this weekend. If the Government gives the green light then the recovery of the hospitality and night time sectors could begin as early as Friday night”.

Daily case numbers continued to offer encouragement to health chiefs. There were 5,523 confirmed cases of Covid-19 yesterday, with a further 5,048 people registering a positive antigen test through the HSE portal the previous day. A total of 896 Covid-19 patients were hospitalised, with 90 in ICU.

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar indicated the Government’s €1,000 Covid bonus would be extended to agency workers such as cleaners, nurses and paramedics in public hospitals contracted or seconded to the HSE during the pandemic.

However, the bonus will not be extended to family carers and those in the private sector because of Government concerns about the potential cost.

Gardaí called for the pandemic bonus to be extended to them with the Garda Representative Association (GRA) saying all frontline emergency workers should receive it.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times