Q&A: What do the new restrictions mean for hospitality and household visits this Christmas?

New rules recommended by Nphet accepted by Government

The Government has announced new measures to slow the spread of Covid-19 amid the potential threat posed by the Omicron variant. Here's what it will mean for the hospitality industry and household visits over Christmas.

What did Nphet recommend?

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) made a number of recommendations to Government in its letter on Thursday night.

Hospital Report

It said that no more than four households should mix over the Christmas period.

There should be a maximum of six people at a table in bars and restaurants and nightclubs should close.


Capacity at indoor events like concerts should be reduced to 50 per cent.

Nphet also recommended that the vaccination pass should be extended to “high risk” venues such as gyms and hotels “with appropriate exemptions as required”.

The public health advisers said the measures should be in place until January 9th.

Why did Nphet make the recommendations?

The letter suggested that the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 could drive cases to between 6,000-15,000 per day after Christmas, depending on how serious it is, and the degree of socialisation that happens during the festive period.

It outlines that around seven people per day are dying currently associated with Covid, or 200 per month, which could rise further given high case counts - although booster shots may control this.

And the letter warned that even moderate reductions in vaccine effectiveness or increases in transmissability associated with the Omicron variant would result in a “high to very high” surge in disease.

Has the Government accepted Nphet’s recommendations?

Yes. In his address, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said tonight’s announcement is “not about going back to the days of lockdowns” but to adjust the guidelines to the current threat from the virus.

Mr Martin said the Government has accepted Nphet's advice and a series of new measures will be in place from next Tuesday, December 7th until January 9th.

Nightclubs will close. Social distancing must be practiced in all bars, restaurants and hotels and must revert to pre October 22nd conditions. There will be table service only and one metre between tables. Tables will be limited to six individuals and no multiple bookings will be allowed. Closing time remains at midnight.

There is to be a maximum of 50 per cent capacity at indoor entertainment and sporting events with face masks worn at all times apart from when people are eating. Covid passes will be required for gyms, leisure centres, and hotel bars and restaurants.

The current rules for weddings remain unchanged.

All arrivals into Ireland from Sunday - whether vaccinated or not – will need a negative Covid-19 test result.

Those travelling with an antigen test result will need to have obtained it within 48 hours of arrival into Ireland, and it will have to be a professionally administered test. Those with a PCR test result will have a longer pre-travel window of 72 hours.

Mr Martin confirmed the Government has adopted Nphet’s advice on household visits and limiting them to three other households, while acknowledging the need for flexibility.

The new rules will impact the hospitality industry - will there be any more help for them and impacted workers?

Mr Martin said the hospitality industry will be “bitterly disappointed” but he promised financial support to help it “weather this latest storm.”

There will be a €62.3 million targeted commercial rates waiver for the first three months of 2022 for businesses in the hospitality and entertainment sector that are impacted by the restrictions.

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys secured Cabinet agreement to reopen the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) to new entrants for people that lose their jobs as a result of the restrictions. Further details are to be announced in the coming days.

Minister Catherine Martin announced and extra €25 million to support the live entertainment sector, a doubling of the sums set aside Budget 2022 to €50 million.

It’s understood that the reopening of the PUP will be on a temporary basis.

Minister for Enterprise, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that the Covid Response Support Scheme (CRSS) will be reformed to help more businesses.

Up until now it was only paid to businesses that had to close or saw a 75 per cent reduction in turnover. It will now apply to businesses like restaurants, pubs, theatres and nightclubs who are impacted by the restrictions though there will be terms and conditions.

Mr Varadkar gave the example of restaurants where tables are empty and suggested they will be able to access the CRSS even though they are not closed.

The Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) - the rates of which were cut this week - will stay at the new reduced rates.

Mr Varadkar said this is because the majority of businesses and jobs supported by the EWSS are not in sectors affectd by the restirctions tonight.

He said the Government want to make sure EWSS is targeted at those that need it the most.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times