Thousands return to the office as more Covid restrictions ease

Thousands return to the office as more Covid restrictions ease

People can begin to return to workplaces today “for specific business requirements” and on a “phased and staggered attendance basis”.

Thousands of workers are returning to offices today, while indoor sports and classes are recommencing in a major milestone in the easing of Ireland's Covid restrictions.

All restrictions on outdoor group activities are now removed, and businesses such as indoor dance, yoga, pilates studios, art classes and indoor sports and fitness classes will all be permitted for up to 100 people, provided all participants are vaccinated.

Restrictions on indoor activities have also been eased as thousands of people return to their place of work after months of remote working as a result of pandemic public health measures. Picture: Collins
Restrictions on indoor activities have also been eased as thousands of people return to their place of work after months of remote working as a result of pandemic public health measures. Picture: Collins

Some restrictions on numbers will remain and a requirement to maintain pods of six participants will be in place where those attending have mixed immunity status.

All restrictions on outdoor group activities will also be removed meaning no upper limit on numbers.

Many of these businesses have been furloughed since the beginning of the pandemic 18 months ago.

Speaking ahead of the easing, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the public health advice no longer requires working from home and a phased return to the office is underway.

I know many are looking forward to returning to the office, to see their colleagues who they’ve only seen through a screen for the past 18 months, in person.

"For those who were recruited during the pandemic, it will be the first time ever they’ve been in the office or met their co-workers – even after over a year working together in some cases,” he said.

“The pandemic has taught us what’s possible in terms of remote working. It transformed the world of work overnight. I hope we can learn something from what worked for workers and employers during that time and incorporate it post-Covid."

Many workers will be returning to an office environment for the first time in 18 months this week, although the Tanaiste has said he hopes employers will encourage working from home to continue where possible. File picture. 
Many workers will be returning to an office environment for the first time in 18 months this week, although the Tanaiste has said he hopes employers will encourage working from home to continue where possible. File picture. 

The Tánaiste said, though, that remote working should become "a permanent fixture" of working life and encouraged employers to find out what works best for their staff. 

Mr Varadkar said that thanks to the success of the vaccination programme, we are in a position to ease restrictions further and allow these indoor activities take place, including indoor exercise classes, bands, bowling alleys, amusement arcades, chess, bridge and other indoor activities.

“We are now one of the best in the world for vaccine uptake, 90% of people over 16 are now double-jabbed. It’s a testament to the Irish people for trusting the science, trusting our health care professionals and protecting each other.

I wish all those returning to work tomorrow for the first time, the very best and thank you for all you have done over the pandemic.

The phased easing comes as a further 1,224 cases of the virus were confirmed on Sunday with 278 Covid patients in hospital, of which 63 are in intensive care.

Over 90% of people over the age of 16 are now fully vaccinated while 93% of adults have received at least one dose.

Commenting on the vaccination milestone, HSE chief Paul Reid said young people have been truly remarkable and inspirational.

"Younger people have influenced and shaped this country for the better on many occasions over the past few years. They have done so again," said Mr Reid.

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