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'Full Level 5': What do the new restrictions mean for households and businesses?

The new restrictions come into force tonight until 31 January.

Image: Sam Boal

THE GOVERNMENT HAS announced full Level 5 restrictions will come into force from midnight tonight and be in place until 31 January.

Since Christmas Eve, when bars and restaurants were required to close their doors, we have been getting to grips with tighter restrictions.

Now, even tougher measures are being implemented because of the rapid growth in virus case numbers and hospitalisations in recent days.

Earlier this evening, health officials reported 1,718 new cases of Covid-19 in the Republic of Ireland. 

A total of 445 people are in hospitalised with Covid-19 in Ireland, and the number in intensive care has risen to 37.

This afternoon, health officials in Northern Ireland reported a further 2,143 cases of Covid-19

In the Republic, the new Level 5 restrictions will be in place for at least four weeks, after which they will be reviewed.

So what does ‘full Level 5′ mean, exactly? Here’s a rundown of the new restrictions:


Schools will remain closed until 11 January.

They had been due to reopen on Wednesday 6 January but in recent days, concerns were raised about the plan.

In a letter sent to Minister for Education Norma Foley earlier this week, Irish National Teachers’ Organisation general secretary John Boyle requested that the reopening date be delayed.

Boyle called for the start of the next school term to be delayed until Monday, 11 January “at the earliest”. 

That request has been granted.

Domestic travel 

From midnight tonight until at least 31 January (and possibly beyond, by the sounds of it), we’ll all be required to stay within 5km of our homes.

You are, however, permitted to leave the 5km if you need to:

  • Travel to and from work if you provide an essential service
  • Attend a medical appointment or collect medicine
  • Attend court
  • Attend a disability day service
  • Buy food
  • Attend a wedding or visit a grave
  • Provide care to family members, children, elderly or vulnerable people

If you’re away from your home tonight or tomorrow night, you are allowed to return home.

But it’s worth noting that public transport capacity will be cut to 25% over the coming days.

Household visits, exercise and sport

From midnight tonight, no social visits are permitted to take place in households, gardens or in other settings.

However, exceptions are made for “essential family reasons” such as looking after elderly or vulnerable people or as part of a support bubble.

People are allowed to meet up with members of one other household for exercise in an outdoor setting but no indoor or outdoor group activities are permitted.

Speaking of exercise, gyms, leisure centres, golf clubs and tennis facilities have to close from close of business on New Year’s Eve.

Professional and elite sports — including horse and greyhound racing — are allowed to continue behind closed doors.

Weddings, funerals and religious services

According to the Government website, “Up to and including 2 January, a maximum of 25 guests can attend a wedding ceremony and reception, whether indoors or outdoors.”

From 3 January, up to 6 guests are permitted.

Up to 10 mourners can attend a funeral. 

All religious services will have to be held online from midnight tonight but places of worship can remain open for private prayer.

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Having been allowed to reopen before Christmas and remained open despite the reimposition of some Level 5 restrictions on Christmas Eve, non-essential retailers will have to shut their doors once again.

Essential retailers — supermarkets, hardware shops, pharmacies among others — can stay open to customers during the Level 5 restrictions.

Non-essential retailers — homeware shops, clothes shops, toy shops and the like — will not be permitted to allow walk-in customers from close of business on New Year’s Eve.

During the March-April lockdown and the Level 5 period in November, non-essential retailers were allowed to continue operating behind closed doors if they offered online delivery or ‘click/phone and collect’ services.

Customers were only allowed into the shop to collect their items and only if they live within the 5km limit.

This arrangement will remain in place, health minister Stephen Donnelly confirmed earlier.

Hospitality businesses

Not much has changed here.

All gastropubs, pubs serving food, cafes, restaurants and hotel bars and restaurants will have to close to customers.

They can, however, operate on a takeaway basis.

This has been the case since Christmas Eve when pubs serving food and restaurants had to close.

Wet pubs will remain shut.

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