Taoiseach announces new restrictions that will come into effect on Christmas Eve

The Taoiseach has confirmed that the Republic of Ireland is to enter a fresh period of Covid-19 restrictions on Christmas Eve, in response to a rapid rise in cases.

Micheál Martin said there will be a return to Level 5 restrictions, with a number of exemptions, from 24 December until at least 12 January.

Speaking in a televised address on Tuesday afternoon Mr Martin said the Government was acting "quickly and aggressively" as cases are increasing at an unsustainable rate.

He said it was responsible to proceed on the assumption that the new variant of Covid-19 was already in Ireland.

Read more: Ireland grappling with third Covid wave, public health experts warn

The new measures include:

  • Restaurants and gastro pubs will have to close at 3pm on Christmas Eve.

  • After 3pm on Christmas Eve, hotels will only be able to remain open for essential and non-tourism purposes.

  • Inter-county travel will be prohibited after December 26.

  • The current measures that allow visits from two other households to a private dwelling or garden will end on December 27.

  • One other household will be allowed to visit up to December 31 before a ban on visitors, apart for essential purposes, will come into effect.

  • Higher, further and adult education should remain online.

Read more: Irish government imposes 48-hour ban on travel from Britain to Ireland

Mr Martin said: "Unfortunately in the last week we have seen extraordinary growth in the spread of the virus.

"This is the same pattern that we have seen in the United Kingdom and across Europe.

"Just this morning figures suggest that we may now be seeing a daily growth rate of approximately 10%.

"This is very obviously a source of serious concern. It is simply not sustainable.

"While we do not yet have firm evidence that the new more virulent strain of the Covid virus is in our country, the rate of growth over the last week tells me that the safest and most responsible thing to do is to proceed on the assumption that it is already here."

Mr Martin added "there is light at the end of this tunnel" citing that the approval of the first vaccine for use in Ireland had offered hope, and an expected delivery of almost 10,000 jabs means the roll-out will begin next week.