(Bloomberg) -- Ireland is dropping most pandemic restrictions, including early closing times for bars and restaurants and a work-from-home order, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said.
It’s the latest sign that Europe’s approach to Covid-19 is shifting toward something resembling a road back to normal as concern surrounding the omicron variant eases even amid record cases. England this week outlined a dramatic move to scrap rules for people to mask in shops and end mandatory isolation. France also will relax curbs.
“I have stood here and spoken to you on some very dark days, but today is a good day,” Martin said in a national address Friday after the government signed off on the plan. “We have weathered the omicron storm,” with the rate of infection reduced and all key indicators “going in the right direction,” he said.
Businesses can begin a phased return to the workplace on Monday. Starting Saturday, hospitality venues will no longer have to close by 8 p.m. and vaccine passes won’t be required to enter indoor venues. International travel rules won’t change, including the requirement of a Covid-19 certificate for entry.
“The rationale and justification for continuing most of our public health restrictions are no longer in place, therefore from 6 a.m. tomorrow morning the majority of public health measures that we’ve had to live with will be removed,” Martin said.
Capacity restrictions for indoor or outdoor events will end and requirements to manage people’s movements in venues will no longer be needed.
“Spring is coming,” Martin said. “And I don’t know if I have ever looked forward to one as much as I am looking forward to this one.”
Even so, “the pandemic isn’t over” and infections are likely to rise temporarily as a result of the changes, he said.
Europe’s policy shifts reflect a recognition that omicron appears practically unstoppable. The European Union recorded more than 2.3 million new cases on Thursday.
Ireland will still require face masks to be worn in settings where they are currently demanded, including in shops and on public transport, and protective measures in schools will remain in place. Guidance is also unchanged for those with symptoms, positive cases and close contacts. Those measures will be reviewed before the end of February.
The government had imposed a closing time of 8 p.m on hospitality last month as the omicron variant emerged and had set the measures to be in place until the end of January.
Ireland reported 11,161 cases on Friday, including positive antigen tests. Covid-19 hospitalizations are well below January 2021 peaks with 892 hospitalized patients, including 88 in intensive care.
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.