Varadkar says Covid restrictions may last beyond January 9th

Tánaiste says he hopes 2022 will be the year the country moves away from restrictions

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said he does not anticipate the latest Covid-19 restrictions being lifted prior to January 9th.

Mr Varadkar said the public and businesses should be operating on the basis that restrictions will be in place until “at least January 9th”.

“Generally in our experience of the pandemic, when restrictions are imposed they tend to be extended, not reversed sooner than the date designated,” he told the Seanad on Tuesday.

“I think we need to bear that in mind, any time I hear anyone say ‘it’s just for a few weeks’ in this pandemic, I always say right back to them how many times have you said that and it turned out to be for a few months.


“That’s why we always make decisions mindful of the fact that what might appear to be a temporary measure can be one that lasts for months and even years.”

He said he hoped 2022 would be the year the country moves away from restrictions.

The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment said the Government will hopefully be in a position to announce on Wednesday he financial supports it intends to provide to the hospitality and entertainment sectors.

He said he would like to make the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) “sector specific” but that he has been told it cannot be done.

He said if the wage subsidy scheme definitely can’t be used on a sectoral basis, the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) would be used on a sectoral basis to target companies, businesses and workers who are now adversely impacted by recent restrictions.

He said the measures may require primary legislation but added that the Finance Bill is currently in the Seanad where it can be amended to provide for “things like this”.

Mr Varadkar said he and the Minister for Culture Catherine Martin were also looking at a number of possibilities including reopening the events sector scheme and some bespoke tourism schemes.

The Tanaiste said the performance of the Irish economy has been “extraordinary” with labour shortages across the economy and a surge in applications for work permits.

He said a number of businesses have incurred damage due to Storm Barra and that while most would be covered by their insurance, where companies were unable to get insurance they will be eligible for financial aid from his department.

He said the scheme will be open in the coming days and no later than next Tuesday.

From today until at least January 9th, indoor hospitality will be limited to parties of up to six adults per table, while nightclubs will be closed and indoor events limited to half a venue’s capacity. Advice has been issued that households should not host more than three other households in their home, while the use of the vaccine pass is to be extended to gyms and hotel bars and restaurants.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times