The Government has announced an easing of the Covid-19 restrictions ahead of Christmas, after six weeks at Level 5, the highest level in the framework for dealing with the virus.
Speaking near the end of an uncertain month for many, Taoiseach Micheál Martin confirmed the new measures, which will begin to take effect from Tuesday, 1 December.
Ahead of Christmas week, new exemptions will then be introduced, to allow people to “have a meaningful Christmas, albeit different to other years”.
So what will the new measures mean and when will they come into force?
From Tuesday, the entire country will move to Level 3 in the Covid-19 plan, “with some modifications”, said the Taoiseach.
People are told to continue to stay within their county, other than for work, education or other essential purposes.
Where possible, people should continue to work from home.
Households should not mix with other households outside their bubble until Christmas week.
There is updated guidance on face masks, and people should now wear them outdoors on busy streets, inside crowded workplaces and in places of worship.
Non-essential retail and services will be allowed to resume.
Places of worship will reopen, as will museums, galleries, cinemas, gyms and swimming pools.
Gatherings of 15 people may take place outdoors, and non-contact training is allowed outdoors in pods of 15.
Keeping with exercise: Indoor dance or exercise classes will not be allowed to resume, and indoor exercise is limited to individual training only.
Hotels and guesthouses may reopen, with services limited to residents only.
As is already the case now, weddings with up to 25 guests will be permitted, as will funerals with up to 25 mourners.
No matches or events can take place, except for professional and elite sports, approved inter-county GAA games, horse racing and approved equestrian events, and all of these must take place behind closed doors.
Public transport capacity will be limited to 50%.
Next Friday, restaurants, hotels and gastropubs (with their own kitchen and meals prepared on site) can reopen for indoor dining with additional restrictions.
‘Wet pubs’ will not reopen, Micheál Martin said, adding that additional supports beyond what is currently in place will be introduced to help pub owners into the new year. Pubs can continue to do takeaway or delivery.
A Government statement said: “Additional seasonal support through CRSS will be provided to qualifying businesses that will remain closed due to public health restrictions introduced by the Government to combat the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This is in recognition of the additional financial impact on those businesses of being closed at Christmas, which for many would be a particularly busy trading period.”
Higher education should remain online during this period, the Government says.
The Government has marked 18 December as the date to begin the two-week Christmas exception to the rules.
From this date until 6 January, travel outside of your county will be permitted, which will allow people to go home for Christmas.
In addition, up to three households will be allowed to meet indoors during this period.
The measures relating to cross-border travel between north and south will be the same as for travel between any other county.
So, from 18 December, travel between the two will be allowed.
After 6 January, the Level 3 measures that were in place before 18 December will come back into effect, subject to the most up-to-date statistics on the trajectory of the virus.
Please see https://www.rte.ie/news/coronavirus/2020/1127/1180970-level-3-december-restrictions/ for more details