Will Ireland's Covid restrictions end in January?
Happy New Year.
And happy continued Covid restrictions.
Ireland's Covid cases reached an all-time high over the Christmas period, with a record number of people testing positive for the virus.
The new Omicron variant has been described as the most transmissible yet, as tens of thousands of people were recorded to have tested positive for Covid over the past few weeks.
But what is the likelihood of any restrictions being lifted this month, and are any more measures expected to be introduced?
What Covid restrictions are currently in place in Ireland?
Major Covid restrictions in Ireland concern the hospitality and entertainment industries. An 8pm curfew was imposed on restaurants and bars, as well as all indoor events (including cinemas and theatres), on December 20.
Hotels remain fully open but only wedding guests and residents are permitted to reside in bars and restaurants past 8pm. Nightclubs have been closed since early December.
Concerts and sporting events have been operating at 50% capacity, while the digital Covid certificate became mandatory for gyms and leisure centres.
Are these restrictions expected to end in January?
The current restrictions are set to stay in place until the end of the month, but it is not yet known if they will be extended beyond this point.
The restrictions of late 2020 and early 2021 were extended far beyond their original scope, with most of Ireland's economy remaining closed until late spring time.
However, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has continuously reiterated that Ireland is in a "different place" to this time last year due to the Covid vaccine roll out. The country boasts one of the highest vaccine uptakes in the world.
Professor Luke O'Neill has also expressed hope that this year's wave of restrictions will be the last. He said: “By the time we get to March and April, it will be a different story entirely – watch. We will be able to live with it, because of all these various strategies.
“We know a lot about this virus now – for heaven’s sake, it’s been almost two years. We have a heavily vaccinated population, which is brilliant, with a strong booster to sustain protection.
“When you put it all together, by the time we get to St Patrick’s Day, the virus will have gone away almost from Ireland, it will seem to be in the background.”
The Covid booster rollout is now accepting bookings from all ages over 16. Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly confirmed the news last month, stating:
“In order to maintain momentum and build on the additional capacity put in place by the HSE over the last month within our vaccination centres and in primary care, I am delighted to announce that booster vaccination will now be available for all remaining age groups earlier than scheduled, beginning from Sunday next.”
Will more restrictions be introduced this month?
At this stage, it is unknown if more restrictions will be introduced this month. Cabinet is expected to meet to discuss the situation on Wednesday and NPHET will meet on Thursday.
Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan issued a warning ahead of New Year's Eve, stating that meeting up in large group was "simply not safe."
“I think the very legitimate thing that people can say is that right now, ‘what’s the most effective thing that I can do as an individual to protect myself?’" he told Morning Ireland.
“Meeting up in large numbers of four households at this point in time, given the levels of infection that we have, is simply not safe."
Changes to Covid testing have already been introduced due to the limited capacity of PCR testing centres.
The HSE recently announced that anyone aged between 4-years-old and 39 with Covid symptoms must take an antigen test at home before booking a PCR test. If the antigen test is positive then a “confirmatory” PCR test can be booked.
It is believed that the current number of positive Covid cases in Ireland is considerably higher than recorded, due to the limited capacity at testing centres.
Feature image via Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie