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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 0°C
Alamy Stock Photo Masks will still be required on public transport and in health settings

Cabinet agrees to end almost all Covid-19 health measures from next Monday

Updated guidance will be issued for early learning and childcare providers on preventing the spread of infection.

LAST UPDATE | Feb 22nd 2022, 7:57 PM

THE GOVERNMENT HAS confirmed it is lifting almost all restrictions around mask-wearing from next Monday, 28 February.

Following a Cabinet meeting today, it confirmed it is accepting advice from NPHET to lift requirements for masks in retail settings, staff in hospitality settings and other indoor public settings. 

Masks will still be required to be worn in health settings and will be advised to be worn on public transport, but this will not be a legal requirement.

The Government also agreed to lift specific protective measures in place in schools and early learning and school-aged childcare facilities, such as pods, social distancing and staggering of breaks.

The Department of Children is coordinating with the HPSC to update infection, prevention and control guidance for early learning and childcare providers.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said people are still being advised to wear face masks on public transport and in healthcare settings. 

He said: “Of course there are people who may wish to continue to wear a mask and they are free to do so (and) people who have underlying conditions may also wish to choose to do so.”

A Government press statement issued this afternoon noted that the current epidemiological profile of COVID-19 in Ireland continues to provide a broadly stable and positive outlook. 

“Following a recent moderate increase – particularly amongst young adults – the number of infections detected per day remains high but has stabilised, and may be starting to decrease,” a spokesperson said.

“While the burden on our hospitals remains significant, it is relatively stable.”

The statement advised that due to the Omicron variant, there are critical measures still required including:

  • Isolate if you are symptomatic (even if you are fully vaccinated and boosted) or if you are diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Complete your primary and booster programme of vaccination.
  • Continue to manage risk for yourself and others who are more vulnerable including by wearing masks, physical distancing and avoiding crowds as well as basic hand and respiratory hygiene.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin confirmed last Friday that the Government would be accepting the guidance from NPHET that will bring an end to mandatory mask-wearing.

Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan had recommended an end to the mandatory wearing of masks in his letter to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, where he said NPHET had concluded that there is “no longer a continuing public health rationale” for retaining them.

“Mandatory mask-wearing in areas where it is currently regulated for, including: public transport, taxis, retail and other indoor public settings, and staff in hospitality settings.

“Public health measures in early learning settings, school-aged childcare, primary and secondary schools, including physical distancing measures such as pods, and mask wearing.”

Early learning

Updated guidance is expected to be issued for early learning and childcare providers on preventing the spread of infection.

The Department of Children is working with the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) to update the guidance.

Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman thanked “early learning and childcare providers and their staff for the commitment they have shown to children and families since the onset of Covid-19 and their ongoing efforts to implement the public health guidance, keeping the children in their care safe”.

“In line with NPHET recommendations, physical distancing measures such as play-pods, and mask wearing, will no longer be required with effect from Monday 28 February in early learning and childcare settings,” the minister said.

“I recognise that, over the coming period, staff, parents and children within early learning and childcare settings will perceive the risk of COVID-19 infection in different ways, depending on their individual medical history and experience of the pandemic to date.

“The exemption to the turnover rule for early learning and childcare providers to access the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) will remain in place until end April – at a flat rate of €100 per week – which may support providers with any transition period needed as these measures are unwound.

“I will continue to engage regularly with the Early Learning and Childcare Stakeholder Forum and with public health experts and provide updates as necessary.”


Following the announcement, the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) has raised concerns about the decision and said that it may be premature.

“We are concerned that the decision may be premature and has the potential to cause further disruption to teaching and learning,” a TUI spokesperson said.

With daily COVID-19 case numbers in the community remaining high and outbreaks still occurring in many schools, the TUI had strongly advocated for a cautious approach and for the retention of key mitigation measures, including the wearing of masks, in education settings for the remainder of the school year.

“Of particular concern are students and staff who have underlying health issues that make them especially vulnerable in terms of COVID-19 or who live with family members who are vulnerable.

“Removal of such a key protection against infection will be an extremely worrying development for them and their families in what has already been a very stressful two years.”

The TUI have said that many of their members will continue to wear face masks and have said that they will support them.

With reporting by Lauren Boland and Tadgh McNally

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