The Government has announced that gatherings in homes are to be limited to a maximum of 10 people from no more than four other households to help prevent a resurgence of the spread of Covid-19.

The Taoiseach announced this evening that Ireland will not progress to Phase 4 of the roadmap on reopening as planned next week.

Micheál Martin said that Cabinet has agreed that current health measures on Covid-19 should remain in place until 10 August.

Speaking at a press conference following a Cabinet meeting at Dublin Castle, Mr Martin said that the Government identified five key priority areas: 

  • Face coverings must be worn in all shops and retail settings and shopping centres. Retail staff will also be required to wear them unless there is a partition in place or there is a space of 2 metres between them and customers.
  • Pubs, bars, hotel bars, nightclubs and casinos will remain closed until 10 August. Pubs currently serving food can remain open.
  • Social visits to people's homes should be limited to a max of ten people from no more than four different households.
  • Current restrictions of 50 people in indoor gatherings, 200 at outdoor gatherings is being extended until 10 August.
  • It is continuing to advise against all non-essential travel.

The Government said regulations on face coverings in the retail sector will take some time to draft but that the strong advice is for people to start obeying the guidance immediately.

The Acting Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, Dr Ronan Glynn, said that the reproductive rate of the coronavirus, the R number, in Ireland is now between 1.2 and 1.8.

He warned the public that the pandemic is not over, and that it is accelerating globally.

Dr Glynn said efforts must now be redoubled to suppress the virus, and that it remains active in communities in Ireland.

The Taoiseach said the priority now must be on getting the R number below one. If that happens it gives the country the best chance possible to get schools reopened in late August, he said.

Mr Martin told the conference that it is also vital to ensure that critical non-Covid care continues.

The Taoiseach said that the roadmap on reopening Ireland made it clear that each phase and indicative date for them would be kept under constant review. 

"One thing has not changed - this virus has not changed," he said. "Indiscriminate in its cruelty and relentless as ever in finding new hosts so it can continue to spread."

Mr Martin said that the Government will publish a so called 'green list' of countries on 20 July and said the list will be kept under review every fortnight.

There is to be an increased presence of staff at ports and airports to make incoming passengers aware of their obligations including restriction of movement for 14 days.

Work is under way to move the passenger locator form online to make it easier to do follow-ups.

Mr Martin said he knows that for a lot of people the delay to Phase 4 will be disappointing. However, he said it is important to protect the progress made to date.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the success so far is down to collective effort, and that Ireland has one of the lowest prevalences of Covid-19 in Europe.

The Government said it was asking everyone to be careful and to remain cautious, saying the aim is to prevent a resurgence of Covid-19 and to protect the most vulnerable.

Dr Glynn said that in recent days NPHET has had a growing concern in the increase in Covid-19 cases and the profile of cases.

There is an increasing proportion of younger people testing positive and a number of those were linked to large clusters, he said.

Dr Glynn said that the R rate is now above 1, and 14 day incidence has risen from a low of 2.5 per 100,000 to 3.9 per 100,000 today.

NPHET is recommending that a cautious approach be pursued.

Earlier it was revealed that there had been an increase in the number of clusters of Covid-19 in private households, particularly in the last week.

The number of clusters or outbreaks of Covid-19 reported in private households increased by 96, in the week to last Sunday, according to the latest figures from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

Most of these outbreaks were seen in the east of the country where 72 outbreaks were recorded.

Additional reporting Dimitri O'Donnell, Mary Regan