DUBLIN — Ireland cleared the way for its first full public celebration of St. Patrick’s Day in two years as the prime minister, Micheal Martin, announced on Friday that most Covid restrictions would end beginning on Saturday.
“Spring is coming, and I don’t know if I have ever looked forward to one as much as this one,” said Mr. Martin. “Humans are social beings, and we Irish are more social than most. As we look forward to this spring, we need to see each other again; we need to see each other smile; we need to sing again.”
The minister for culture, tourism and the arts, Catherine Martin, also confirmed that the nation’s St. Patrick’s Day festival would go ahead in March, after a two-year hiatus. The festival in 2020 was an early casualty of the pandemic, canceled only the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day. And last year’s celebration was canceled, too.
The lifting of Covid restrictions will allow bars to remain open after 8 p.m., the closing hour that was mandated in the lead-up to the holiday season when Omicron cases surged.
Customers will no longer be required to show proof of vaccinations or evidence that they have had an infection in the last 12 months. Nightclubs will be able to reopen, and there will be no restrictions on the number of people who can attend events, such as weddings, concerts, sporting events, or — as is traditional in Ireland — funerals. Also, rules that prohibited members of more than one household from visiting their homes are being repealed.
“We should all take a moment to appreciate how far we’ve come, to appreciate the effort and sacrifice of those who put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe, to remember and appreciate the lives and contributions of those we lost,” the prime minister said.
Ireland’s reports of new daily Covid cases have been falling. The nation reported 5,523 cases on Thursday, a drop from the 26,122 reported on Jan. 8 during Omicron-fueled waves. According to the New York Times database, 78% of the Irish population are fully vaccinated.
For at least another month, face masks will be required indoors in public places, such as stores or on public transportation. All international travel inbound or outbound must pass a negative Covid test. These remaining measures will still be reviewed by February. By then, the government hopes that many more children aged 5-11 years will have been fully vaccinated.
“The pandemic isn’t over,” Mr. Martin said. “It will still require all of us to be vigilant.”
Source: NY Times