ICU and hospital numbers continue to fall as majority of Covid restrictions end

ICU and hospital numbers continue to fall as majority of Covid restrictions end

The sign in the window of Bar Rua in Dublin City centre captures the mood of many people who are looking forward to an earlier than planned lifting of Covid restrictions announced by Taoiseach Micheál Martin yesterday. Picture: Brian Lawless

As the country celebrates its first day of freedom from most restrictions, the number in ICU has fallen below 80 for the first time since November 8.

It now stands at 78, down 10 in the last 24 hours.

Overall, there are 836 patients receiving treatment for the disease today.

This is down 56 on yesterday and marks the fifth day in a row that the number of Covid patients in Irish hospitals has fallen.

The Government announced the effective end of Covid-19 restrictions, with Taoiseach Micheál Martin saying that now is the time to begin opening up after two years of restrictions.

What restrictions are gone and from when?

In short — all of them, from 6am today. Almost all Covid measures, including the need for a digital Covid certificate for bars and restaurants, the 8pm curfew, and other social distancing rules, came to an end at 6am.

Physical distancing between tables, and table service in restaurants and pubs will no longer be required.  Nightclubs are also allowed to reopen.

The requirement to provide a Covid vaccine cert will no longer be in place across all venues, and premises such as pubs and restaurants will no longer have to keep records for contact tracing. The limit on numbers that can visit other households and limits on the number of wedding guests have also been lifted.

What about face masks?

There will be no change to the requirement to wear face coverings in retail or transport spaces. Masks must also be worn in school settings until February 28. While these restrictions remain in place until the end of February, in hospitality settings, only staff will have to wear a mask.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said this was because people were aware of the risks of places such as bars and restaurants for medically vulnerable people.

What about international travel?

Covid-19 digital certificates will still be needed for travel, as this is an EU requirement. There is no change to the current measures for having a certificate. However, from February 1 , for travel purposes, certificates based on primary vaccination (two doses or one dose of Janssen) will expire after 270 days (nine months). An updated cert can be obtained for those who have received a booster dose and these certs are  currently being issued. Anyone who has not received an updated cert can request one through the self-service portal on Gov.ie

For those coming into Ireland, the vaccination, testing, and passenger locator form requirements remain in place.

What about pandemic supports?

As of today, entrance to the pandemic unemployment payment scheme (PUP) will be closed, with those in receipt of supports transitioning to the jobseekers’ rate on March 8.

The employment wage subsidy scheme (EWSS) will have enhanced rates for those impacted by restrictions from December to February, with a two-rate subsidy of €151.50 and €203 per week to apply in March, and a flat rate of €100 per week for April and May. A restart payment of one week’s support will be paid to Covid restrictions support scheme recipients to aid reopening.

Does this mean that the pandemic is over?

No. Covid-19 and the threats that come with it remain with us, and there are still likely to be further twists and turns along the way. 

David Nabarro, the Covid-19 envoy for the World Health Organization, has warned Irish people to be ready for “reversals”.

• Nphet is set to meet again on February 17. 

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