An end to guest restrictions at weddings, full sports stadiums, and the return of normal pub trading hours have been announced by the Government.
On Friday, October 22, the remaining aspects of the hospitality, entertainment and night-time economy sector can reopen but only with the “full range of protective measures” in place.
No sectors currently open will close.
However, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said Covid passes for indoor hospitality and the continuation of mask-wearing in many indoor instances would continue.
Mr Martin said the vaccination programme and the use of Covid passes is "how we got to where we are."
He said Ireland had marked "significant milestones" in September with regards to reopening, but the "public health statistics tell us a story we must listen to."
Commenting on increasing hospitalisations and ICU admissions, the Taoiseach said they were a "timely reminder" of how dangerous Covid is.
As such, the Government has announced that the following measures will be in place from Friday:
- a requirement for Covid-19 pass (vaccine or recovery certificate) for indoor hospitality and events;
- continued social distancing; face masks (can be removed for consumption of food or alcohol as appropriate);
- and table service only in hospitality settings (max of 10 adults per table, and max 15 including children).
Return to workplaces will continue on a phased basis, the Taoiseach said, with antigen tests now being sent to close contacts of confirmed cases.
The Taoiseach said these tests would play a bigger role in the reopening.
For proprietors, there will be a need to maintain the collection of contact tracing data.
At indoor live music, drama, live entertainment and sporting events audience/spectators should be fully seated (standing permitted at your seat).
Mr Martin said specific sectoral guidance will be developed for nightclubs setting out appropriate protective measures.
This will involve Covid-19 passes, contact tracing data collection and wearing of facemasks except when eating, drinking and dancing.
He said Covid-19 passes and fixed capacity limits will not apply for outdoor events. However, sectors should ensure appropriate protective measures are in place.
Organisers of indoor and outdoor group activities should ensure that appropriate protective measures are in place, and where indoor groups have a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated people indoors, pods of 6 should apply.
Fixed capacity limits will not apply to these indoor and outdoor group activities, he said.
For example, religious services and weddings can proceed without capacity limits but with all other protective measures remaining in place.
Sector-specific guidance and protocols, including with regard to work, hospitality, cultural and sporting events will be reviewed and strengthened where appropriate.
The Taoiseach also suggested that these measures would be extended to February on foot of Nphet advice.
Mr Martin also said the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has recommended that a booster dose of Pfizer vaccine be offered to all those aged 60 to 79 years who have completed their primary course of vaccine.
He said no decision has been taken as to what impact having a third vaccine would have on people’s Covid-19 pass.
In relation to Antigen testing, Mr Martin said Nphet has recommended that:
- Subject to operational feasibility, the HSE should implement a programme of Covid-19 antigen testing (with PCR confirmation of positive cases) for people who are identified as fully vaccinated close contacts of a confirmed case and who do not have any symptoms.
- The Rapid Testing Expert Advisory Group be requested to provide a view as to the potential utility of voluntary self-testing by asymptomatic individuals who plan to engage in high-risk behaviours and activities, such as going to nightclubs.
- The Rapid Testing Expert Advisory Group be requested to examine the potential role and feasibility of rapid testing as a component of the COVID-19 pass for those for whom, on medical grounds, it is not been possible to get fully vaccinated.
The Government also announced that the current enhanced illness benefit payment arrangements for Covid-19 will remain in place.
This benefit is available at a rate of €350 a week, with no waiting days, for employees and self-employed people who are certified by a registered medical practitioner as diagnosed with the virus.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the situation around the virus would not be back to complete normality for some time yet.
"It's going to be like this for a few months," he said.
He said those attending events should self-test using antigen testing and that guides on doing so will be published by the Government.
Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said the mandatory hotel quarantine system is no longer considered necessary and will be wound down and mandatory home quarantine requirements to be removed.