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Government publishes update to ‘Living with Covid-19 Plan’, outlines restrictions in coming weeks and extends Covid-19 supports

Government publishes update to ‘Living with Covid-19 Plan’, outlines restrictions in coming weeks and extends Covid-19 supports

Government publishes update to ‘Living with Covid-19 Plan’, outlines restrictions in coming weeks and extends Covid-19 supports

Public health restrictions

On 23rd February, the Government adopted an update to the ‘Living with Covid-19 Plan’, published in a document entitled ‘Recovery and Renewal 2021 - The Path Ahead’, and announced the public health restrictions that will apply after 5th March. While the existing 5-level framework of public health restrictions will remain an important reference point, in the update the Government has committed itself to a careful approach to the loosening of restrictions, with the aim of not allowing a situation when measures would have to be tightened again.

In the near-term – from 5th March to 5th April, the enhanced level 5 measures which have applied since January will remain in force with two exceptions.

The first exception concerns education and childcare. Primary and secondary schools which will see a phased return to in-person teaching beginning on 1st March with final year
secondary school students as well as the youngest primary school pupils (junior infants – 2nd class i.e., 4 – 8 years old) and will be accompanied by the complete resumption of special education. The state early childhood pre-school scheme will resume on 8th March with all childcare returning on 29th March. 15th March will see the full resumption of primary education and the return of penultimate-year students in secondary school. As long as public health conditions allow, the reopening of schools is scheduled to be completed by 12th April.

In addition, Non-COVID health and social care services will be resumed as quickly as possible, subject to ongoing national risk assessments. If the transmission of the virus reaches a level acceptable to public health officials and Government, the vaccination programme progresses as planned and public health advice allows, the Government will consider the following options for changes to restrictions from 5th April:

  • some easing of restrictions on outdoor activities and meetings beyond 1 other household
  • extension of the current 5km limit on non-essential travel
  • phased easing of other restriction areas with a focus on outdoor activities including sport and some types of construction

Any further easing of restrictions after 5th April will be followed by a further three-to-four-week period during which the impact of changes will be assessed. The requirement to work from home is expected to continue for the coming months, unless the work in question is an essential health, social care or other essential service or activity that cannot be done from home.

While the Government continues to resist Opposition proposals for mandatory hotel quarantine for all arrivals to the country, there is indication in the update that the Government will consider further tightening of the definition of what constitutes essential international travel for residents of the State.


In his speech announcing the update to the ‘Living with Covid-19 Plan’, An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, outlined the Government’s estimates for the rates of vaccination over the
coming months. The Government expects that:

  • by the end of April, up to 40% of people over 18 years of age will have received their first dose.
  • by the end of May, up to 64% will have had their first dose.
  • by the end of June, up to 82% of adults who can be vaccinated will have received at least one dose and 55%-60% will be fully vaccinated.

These estimates are based on the forecast of 1 million doses of vaccine being delivered to Ireland each month in April, May and June.

Other Government steps with respect to public health

In addition to the restrictions and vaccination programme, the Government commits itself in ‘Recovery and Renewal 2021 - The Path Ahead’ to a further strengthening of prevention and intervention measures in the area of public health. This is to include the enhancement of public health capacity and the public health response in terms of disease surveillance, contact tracing, use of new testing technologies, ventilation and research and innovation.

With this in mind, a plan in respect of the optimal deployment of antigen testing will be finalised for the consideration of Government by mid-March and additional advice in respect of ventilation will be finalised by the end of March.

Business and income supports

Incorporated into the Government’s approach to managing the pandemic in the coming months is an extension to 30th June of the application of the following business and income supports:

  • Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme
  • Pandemic Unemployment Payment
  • COVID-19 enhanced illness benefit
  • COVID Restrictions Support Scheme (subject to an economic assessment)
  • the suspension of redundancy provisions
  • commercial rates waiver for those businesses most seriously affected by the restrictions

The Government will also continue to provide business supports, through loans, grants, vouchers and support schemes to businesses affected by the pandemic, and to keep such supports under review.