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Easing of Government Restrictions Announcement April 29th

Easing of Government Restrictions Announcement April 29th

On 29th April, the Irish Government decided on public health restrictions for May and June. Better-than-expected Covid-19 figures in April, coupled with an announcement from Pfizer of increased deliveries of vaccines, allowed the Government to announce an ambitious reopening plan for May featuring the phased reopening of non-essential retail, cultural attractions and personal services as well as the lifting of restrictions on intercounty travel. This is to be followed in June by a cautious reopening of hotels and hospitality business which can serve customers outdoors. The ban on non-essential international travel remains in place and will not be reviewed before the end of June.

However, while the Government has not explicitly said it in this case, in past instances travel between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland has been treated as intercounty rather than international travel, suggesting that movement between the two jurisdictions will no longer be subject to restriction.

The announcement on public health restrictions comes in the same week that the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) updated its guidance on the administration of vaccines. The AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are now not to be used among persons under 50 whenever mRNA vaccines are available, and some pregnant women will now be eligible to be vaccinated during pregnancy. The wait time between the administration of doses has been extended only for the AstraZeneca vaccine. Government figures have expressed confidence that the target of giving at least one dose of vaccine to 82% of adults by the end of June will be met under this guidance. However, HSE Chief Executive, Paul Reid, expects reorganisation of the vaccine programme to fit the NIAC conditions, with an update to be published next week.

On the issue of the Digital Green Certificate which is aimed at facilitating travel in Europe and was backed by the European Parliament this week, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney said that work is underway to set up an IT system in Ireland that would work with the EU proposal. However, some coalition TDs have expressed concern that the Government will delay launching the system until just before the deadline for implementation, which is expected to be in late summer.

Public Health Restrictions Roadmap for May and June

From 4th May

All remaining construction can recommence.

From 10th May

  • An increase in the numbers that can meet outdoors for social/recreational purposes, including in private gardens – maximum of 3 households or 6 people from any number of households. This limit of 6 does not include their children aged 12 or younger.
  • Organised outdoor gatherings with a maximum attendance of 15 people
  • Outdoor training for adults in pods of a maximum of 15 people
  • Phased reopening of non-essential retail. Click and collect by appointment and outdoor retail can recommence from 10th May. All remaining retail to reopen from 17th May
  • Reopening of personal services by appointment
  • Reopening of galleries, museums, other cultural attractions
  • Libraries to reopen for lending services. No access to reader spaces/pcs
  • Recommencement of in-person religious services. It is advised that other religious ceremonies such as Communions and Confirmations should not take place at this time
  • Funerals – 50 mourners permitted at service. Related events, either before or after, should not take place
  • Weddings – 50 guests permitted at service (civil or religious). For celebrations/receptions, a maximum of 6 people for indoor gatherings and 15 people for outdoor gatherings
  • Inter-county travel can resume
  • Increase in numbers on public transport, up to 50% of normal capacity
  • Recommencement of property viewings by appointment only with licensed Property Service Providers

From 2nd June

Accommodation services including hotels, B&Bs, self-catering and hostels can reopen. Services including leisure facilities, indoor restaurant and bar services must be restricted to overnight guests/residents only.

From 7th June

  • Outdoor sports matches can recommence. No spectators are permitted
  • Gyms, swimming pools, leisure centres can reopen for individual training only
  • Outdoor services in restaurants and bars can recommence, with groups limited to a maximum of 6 people
  • The numbers of guests attending wedding celebrations/receptions can increase to 25
  • Visiting indoors in private homes – visitors from one other household are permitted

Vaccine bonus

From 10th May, indoor private home visiting is permitted (without masks or social distancing) in the following cases:

  • fully vaccinated people can meet indoors with other fully vaccinated people as long as there are no more than 3 households present
  • fully vaccinated people can meet indoors with unvaccinated people from a single household, provided that they are not at risk of severe illness and no more than 3 households are present.

The definition of a fully-vaccinated person for the purposes of the vaccine bonus varies by vaccine and an exception is made for the AstraZeneca vaccine to acknowledge the long gap between doses:

  • Pfizer/BioNTech – one week after the second dose
  • Moderna – two weeks after the second dose
  • AstraZeneca – four weeks after the first dose (for vaccine bonus purpose only - second dose will continue to be administered)
  • Johnson & Johnson - two weeks after the single dose

Those under the age of 50 who have had a laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 infection in the previous six months and are not immunocompromised will be considered “fully vaccinated” after a single dose of an mRNA vaccine.

Changes to vaccination policy

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) this week adopted new guidance on the administration of vaccines, taking into account the international evidence on side-effects and the debate on the merits of the extension of the gap between the administration of doses.

  • With limited exceptions, the AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson vaccines will only be administered to persons over 50. This means that the age limit for the AstraZeneca vaccine has been lowered from 60. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine may be offered to people under 50 who may be difficult to reach for a second dose of vaccine.
  • Pregnant women will be prioritised for vaccination at between 14 and 36 weeks’ gestation, after consulting with their doctor.
  • The gap between the administration of the two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine has been extended to 12 weeks for persons over 50 and those under 50 at very high risk of experiencing complications from Covid-19, and to 16 weeks for all others.
  • The gap between the administration of the two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines has been maintained at four weeks.