Taoiseach Micheál Martin has confirmed the lifting of nearly all Covid-19 restrictions from 6am Saturday.
"I have stood here on many dark days but today is a good day," he said in a televised address this evening.
Mr Martin described trust as a fragile thing for the public. "People know that Government will not impose restrictions on personal freedoms for any longer than is necessary."
Ireland has weathered the Omicron storm, he added. "Therefore, from 6am tomorrow morning, the majority of public health measures [relating to Covid-19] will be removed."
Spring is coming and "I don't think I have ever looked forward to one as much," he said.
The wearing of masks, where currently required, will continue, as advised by the National Public Health Emergency Team, he confirmed. This includes in schools and public transport.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin says that from 6am tomorrow, the majority of Covid-19 restrictions will be removed. He says a limited number of measures will remain in place for the coming month, they will be reviewed before the end of February | https://t.co/xwD3F6HSzE pic.twitter.com/AIJpEfwCRF— RTÉ News (@rtenews) January 21, 2022
The advice on close contacts, symptoms and positive cases will remain and will be reviewed by the end of February.
From 6am Saturday, the following restrictions will be removed:
- Guidance in relation to household visiting - any number of people can gather
- Early closing time for hospitality and events
- Capacity restrictions for outdoor events, including sporting fixtures
- Capacity restrictions for indoor events, including weddings.
- Sectoral protective measures
- Restrictions on nightclubs
Earlier, the Cabinet agreed that bars, restaurants and nightclubs will be able to operate normal trading times without Covid passes or social distancing.
And the gradual return to the workplace will get under way from Monday.
The Covid pass will still be needed for international travel while mask wearing rules will remain in place until the end of next month when it will be reviewed.
Meanwhile a further 6,597 confirmed cases of Covid-19 were reported today, while 4,564 people registered a positive antigen test through the HSE portal.
As of 8am today, 892 people with coronavirus were in hospital, a decrease of four since yesterday, of whom 88 were in ICU, down two.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said there were lessons to be learnt from the pandemic for the health service and the housing crisis.
She told RTÉ's Six One News that while today was a "very good" day, life was not returning to normal.
The Government said it will extend the provision of a number of key Covid-19 supports, particularly the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme.
Covid-19 protective measures are to remain in place in primary and secondary schools, the Taoiseach said.
Mr Martin said he had been honest with people and if immunity wanes and Omicron starts infecting people again or if a new variant emerges, the Government may "have to take decisions".
He said the challenge now was to "embed a really permanent sort of resilience into [our healthcare system] to be able to respond whatever comes our way".
Small firms and businesses welcomed plans for a gradual return to the workplace from Monday.
Ibec described the move as an "important next step" towards a recovery in many industries.
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The Tánaiste has not ruled out the possibility of bars and restaurants being able to stay open beyond 8pm tonight, but said there are still things which have to be worked out in order to change current regulations | More: https://t.co/PhJRJGyddH pic.twitter.com/tRPC2He96w— RTÉ News (@rtenews) January 21, 2022
Sports events planned for this weekend can now operate at full capacity. It is expected that the decisions around this will be left in the hands of individual operators.
NPHET told the Government last night that it is supportive of lifting almost all Covid-19 restrictions and that analysis has cleared the way for Cabinet to act swiftly.
However, not everything will move apace.
People will continue to be required to isolate if they are symptomatic for Covid-19.
In the NPHET letter to Government, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan stressed the uncertainty of the future trajectory of the disease.
"We cannot fully rule out the reintroduction of measures in the future and we must continue to ensure our response is agile and flexible, with an ability to pivot rapidly and respond to any emerging threat," Dr Holohan wrote.
Additional reporting Mícheál Lehane and Mary Regan