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Ireland to return to Level 5 restrictions from Christmas Eve amid projections of up to 2,000 cases per day by New Year's

Taoiseach confirmed rules for household visits, inter-county travel, restaurants and retail


Ireland is facing fresh lockdown measures (Brian Lawless/PA)

Ireland is facing fresh lockdown measures (Brian Lawless/PA)

Ireland is facing fresh lockdown measures (Brian Lawless/PA)

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has confirmed a return to stricter coronavirus restrictions restrictions for Ireland over the Christmas period.

22/12/2020 15.55

’It is immensely disappointing' - Irish Hairdressers Federation on Christmas Restrictions

The Irish Hairdressers Federation is calling for hair salons to be allowed to reopen in Level 4 as part of the Living With Covid Plan.

‘’It is immensely disappointing that the Government has chosen to close the hairdressing sector once again. It is devastating to us, our staff and, most importantly, our clients. Many of our clients are elderly, and their local hair salon plays a major role as a social outlet and is vital to their mental health.’’

‘’We are calling on the Government to take a fresh look at the Living With Covid Plan and allow hair salons to stay open in Level 4 with strict adherence to our extensive health and safety guidelines, which we have recently updated. Our focus, as always, will be to ensure that hair salons continue to operate safely and responsibly.’’

‘’The hair industry is not just a major contributor to local economies around Ireland, it helps keep countless main streets alive and is a huge part of local communities.’’

From household visits to hairdressers and sports - what's in the renewed Covid-19 restrictions:

Household visits

People will be allowed to have visitors from just one other household from St Stephen’s Day, Saturday December 26. However, no household visits are permitted from Friday January 1 onwards except for essential family reason like caring for children, the elderly or vulnerable people as part of a support bubble.

Restaurants, pubs and hospitality

Restaurants and pubs that serve food have to close from Christmas Eve at 3pm. So-called ‘wet’ pubs remain closed. Hotels will be closed to non-essential bookings from December 26. Extra financial supports are to be provided for the impacted sectors.

Shops and hairdressers

Supermarkets and pharmacies remain open as they have throughout the pandemic. Non-essential retailers like clothing stores are also being allowed to stay open. They must defer the usual January sales. Hairdressers and barbers however, are being closed again after Christmas Eve.

Religious services and weddings

Churches will be open on Christmas Day. Masses and Church services will be online only from December 26. Up to 25 people will be allowed to attend weddings up to and including New Year’s Day. But wedding guests will be limited to six from January 2 onwards.


Non-essential inter-county travel is being banned again from December 26. If people are staying in a different county over Christmas they are allowed stay on at that location, but there must be no new inter-county travel once they return home. The travel ban from Britain- due to the rising case numbers and new strain of the virus there - is being extended to December 31.


Primary and secondary schools are to reopen in January as planned. Third level courses will remain primarily online.

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Gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools will remain open for people training on their own. The tough restrictions on team and indoor sports remain in place. Team training should take place outdoors in pods. No matches should are allowed except for elite sports.

22/12/2020 15.02

'Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less’

The President of Medical Council has written to all doctors in Ireland as cases rise and new restrictions are announced.

Dr Rita Doyle, the President of the Medical Council, has written to every doctor in the country to acknowledge the bravery and dedication demonstrated by the medical profession in a year where the health service and all those working in it, or supporting it, have been pushed to their limits.

Dr Doyle has told doctors that there will be new challenges to face this year and urged doctors to "make some time for themselves" to prepare for challenges in the health service as they arise.

"While some challenges have been faced, others will continue to pose a threat into the New Year, not just those related to the pandemic but also those which have existed within the health service for a long time," Dr Doyle said.

"Doctors across the country have shown tremendous bravery and diligence in the face of the pandemic. I am proud of all that the profession has achieved this year and how we have come together as a workforce and continued to deliver the highest standards of patient care during the most difficult of times," the Medical Council President continued.

Nphet and government have expressed concern that the rapid growth of incidence of Covid-19 among all groups could lead to increased hospitalisations in the new year, with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar confirming models show current trends heading towards 2,000 cases per day by New Year's Eve.

22/12/2020 14.32

Ban on people travelling from parts of UK will remain in place until New Year's Eve - Eamon Ryan

Transport Minister Eamon Ryan confirms the travel ban to the UK (with the exception of Northern Ireland) will remain in place until December 31, despite European Commission advice against a blanket ban on travel to the UK.

Minister Ryan felt it was "appropriate" to extend the ban considering the new Covid strain in parts of England that has seen coronavirus rates soar there.

Tánaiste reiterates that 3pm on Christmas Eve is "closing time". Businesses must be closed by then, not finish serving then.

22/12/2020 14.21

We can't guarantee this will be our last lockdown - Taoiseach

The Taoiseach says he can't be sure this will be the last Level Five lockdown of the pandemic, and also confirms the 5km rule is not in effect, but people can travel within their own county.

Mr Martin says the growth in cases will have a knock-on effect on hospitalisations but at the moment the health service is in a "relatively good position".

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar says current trends, if not tackled, would lead to over 2,000 cases per day by New Year's Eve. Growth was 5pc on Sunday and 7pc yesterday and "the rate of growth is growing" the Tánaiste points out.

22/12/2020 14.05

Projections of up to 2,000 cases per day by New Year's Eve - Varadkar

Tánaiste Leo Varakdar confirms projections of up to 2,000 cases per day by New Year's Eve.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin says while there is no concrete evidence the new strain of Covid-19 is in Ireland, "it's clear there is something going on out there."

The figures are quite dramatically different to what they were in weeks previous, the Taoiseach says, adding: "it would be irresponsible to operate on the assumption the new variant isn't in Ireland."

The Covid Restriction Support Scheme will be paid at double the usual rate to businesses in the hospitality sector in the next two weeks.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar says Nphet have not met fully since last Thursday but concern was so high among some members in recent days Dr Holohan wrote to Stephen Donnelly advising government to move to Level Five.

"The positivity rate pretty much stayed the same until this day last week and then it more than doubled, and case numbers more than doubled just in the last few days - that's how quickly this changed," the Tánaiste said.

It surprised Nphet, the CMO, the government and everybody how quickly things changed, Mr Varadkar said.

22/12/2020 13.50

'Dark day for hospitality sector' - Restaurants' Association of Ireland

Adrian Cummins, CEO of the Restaurants' Association of Ireland, called the new restrictions a "devastating blow" to the hosptiality industry.

"It's a dark day for our sector. 150,000 workers are now facing into being laid off on Christmas Eve. That is not where we wanted to be.

"We need the Government to deliver a meaningful aid package that will keep our businesses afloat into the New Year.

"We need to see an increase of the supports that are there at the moment, they are not what we need them to be. We need to ensure our workers are protected so they can pay their mortgages. That's level of aid and sustainability we need. We need a plan to get our industry back up and running again," Mr Cummins said.

Mr Cummins said the hospitality sector did all they were asked to do around guidelines and safety and proclaimed "we're ready and stand ready to open again once the Government allows us.

He added that hospitality workers need an aid package that brings hope for 2021.

22/12/2020 13.45

'As is often said, the darkest hours come just before the dawn' - Leo Varadkar

"We had a very strict six week lockdown and people do need to see their families, that's why we need to phase in these restrictions," Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said at a press conference this afternoon.

The Fine Gael leader acknowledged that the restrictions being implemented so soon will be devastating to people working in the hospitality sector and has extended their sympathy to those affected.

He continued to say: "The safest thing you can do is stay home, no matter what the variant is, you're not going to get infected sitting at home.

"Those who are particularly vulnerable, those with underlying, chronic conditions or older people, need to shield themselves."

He said that there is "enormous concern" about younger people who have been socialising in recent weeks meeting with older people over the Christmas period.

22/12/2020 13.45

Vaccination rollout 'will take time and we have to be vigilant' - Taoiseach

"We can't go any faster than we are allowed by the amount of vaccines available and the dosing schedule to be effective.

"The real strength of a nation is in its people and everywhere we have looked in the last nine months we have seen the strength of the Irish people. The selfless dedication of our healthcare workers and the professionalism of our teachers and educational staff.

"We have seen it in the quite army of our cleaning staff and caretakers, who have kept so many facilities open and safe. In the shopworkers who have kept essential retail open without complaint throughout the pandemic. In our small business owners strength to keep going and in our chidlren's ability to adapt.

"To all of these people and to all the others who have done what was asked of them, I say thank you," the Taosieach said.

Mr Martin says the "very idea of Christmas is showing our love and respect for others and that is why in normal times we spend so much effort into spending time with family and friends".

"This year the way to show our love and respect for others is to act responsibly and to comply with the guidelines and limit the spread of this virus.

"This Christmas is going to be different but it is also going to be special. We have lost many neighbours and friends to the disease and many others didn't get the goodbye they deserved due to the restrictions. We remember all of them and look forward to brighter days.

"I want to wish everyone a peaceful Christmas and a happy, hopeful New Year," the Taoiseach concluded.

22/12/2020 13.34

Announcement 'nothing short of devastating for sector' - Hotels Federation

A return to restrictions a week earlier than expected has been described as a "financial body blow" by the Irish Hotels Federations.

IHF CEO Tim Fenn said that supports must be put in place to support livelihoods.

He said: "The implications of ongoing restrictions are nothing short of devastating for our sector. Government supports to date have fallen short and not gone far enough in recognising the full extent of the economic impact on our sector. Traditionally, the Christmas trading period is absolutely vital for sustaining hotels during the first few months of the following year. Now, that revenue too is gone with today’s announcement.

"Our sector has made phenomenal sacrifices to ensure public health is the number one priority, and we will continue to play an essential part in keeping the country safe. This must go hand in hand with sufficient economic supports for hotels and guesthouses, including a substantial and simplified Emergency Grant support package based on drop in business turnover.

"A failure to support the industry now will have ramifications for the future of Ireland’s tourism offering and for the economy that could take decades to remedy. This is about thousands of tourism businesses that supported almost 270,000 livelihoods prior to Covid. The Government must now come forward with a coherent, sector-specific programme of supports and measures to secure the long-term financial sustainability of hotels and guesthouses throughout the country."

22/12/2020 13.25

Flight and train bans on travel from UK should be overturned - EC

The European Commission has recommended that flight and train bans on travel from the UK should be discontinued to avoid supply chain disruptions, but “non-essential travel to and from the UK should be discouraged”.

22/12/2020 13.20

Travel outside your county will be permitted up to and including Stephen's Day, and people away from their place of residence after that will be permitted to return to their place of residence.

Christmas religious services will be moved online after December 25 but Taoiseach says churches may remain open for private prayer.

"I know that these restrictions will pose huge challenges to some sections of the economy but I want to assure them that extra financial supports will be provided," Mr Martin said.

"Yesterday, we marked the Winter Solstice and in three days we will celebrate Christmas. In any year this is a time of light and hope and those twin themes have never felt more important or vital this year.

"As despondent as some of us may feel, we must remember the hope is real and there is light at the end of the tunnel. Vaccines are on the way and we will shortly receive 10,000 vaccines against this disease. The rollout of these will commence next week to the most vulnerable," the Taoiseach said.

22/12/2020 13.15

Non contact training in pods of up to 15 can take place outdoors and no matches or events should take place "except for professional and elite sports, horse racing and greyhound racing behind closed doors," Mr Martin said.

Restaurants and pubs operating as restaurants will be closed from 3pm on December 24, with hotels allowed to provide food and bar services only to guests after that point.

Visits from two other households will be allowed to up to and including December 26, and visits to one other household will be permitted up to and including December 31.

"From January 1, no visits to private households or gardens will be permitted", except for compassionate care reasons, Mr Martin said.

22/12/2020 13.05

Ireland will return to Level 5 from Christmas Eve 'with some adjustments'

  • Taoiseach Micheal Martin has confirmed we will return to Level 5 restrictions from Christmas Eve, though there will be some changes.
  • Non-essential retail may remain open but retailers will be asked to refrain from sales
  • Gyms, Leisure Centres and swimming pools may remain open but only for individual training
  • Hotels may only open for essential, non-tourist and non-social reasons, except for guests who already have a booking and are due to check in up to and including Stephen's Day
  • Schools, early learning centres and childcare services will remain open
  • Further and Higher Education institutions should remain online

22/12/2020 13.05

"Every time I have spoken to you, I have made it clear that my number one priority is to protect public health and for that reason the government has agreed to move quickly" and to meet the renewed threat of Covid-19 head on.

"A lot of people will be receiving today's news with a heavy heart, and I know I am bringing this news to you with one."

Taoiseach says that due to the restrictions that Irish people have put on their lives, there are "many alive today that otherwise would not be".

"As a country we have managed to sustain one of the lowest rates of Covid-19 mortality in all of Europe".

22/12/2020 13.00

Taoiseach has started his announcement

Taoiseach Micheál Martin says the vulnerable will pay "a heavy price" if the virus is left to spread unchecked.

The Taoiseach says there has been "extraordinary growth" in the spread of the virus in the last week, the same pattern which has been seen in the UK and Europe.

"This morning, figures suggest we may be seeing a daily growth rate of 10pc".

This very concerning, the Taoiseach says.

"The rate of growth tells me the safest thing to do is to proceed under the assumption that it is already here".

22/12/2020 12.45pm

Here's what we know so far

  • Barbers and Hairdressers will be asked to close their doors on Christmas Eve
  • Pubs and restaurants will be asked to close from 3pm on Christmas Eve.
  • Inter-county travel will be restricted after St Stephen's Day. People will be permitted to travel until Midnight on this day, and people can remain where they are after this date, and can travel home at a later date. People will be asked not to leave the county where they live on December 26.
  • Retail will remain open but government are to interact with shops to ensure no major sales take place after Christmas.
  • New restrictions will be reviewed on January 12 but likely to be extended or only tweaked.

  • Household visits will be reduced to one other household after St Stephen's Day and will be banned from the New Year.

  • Christmas Day is the last day Mass will be held in person, and services will return online from December 26.

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