Ireland relaxes Covid restrictions and prepares for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
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 and restaurants to remain open past 8 p.m., the closing time that had been mandated in the run-up to the holiday season as Omicron cases surged.
Customers will no longer need to show proof of vaccination or that they have had a recent infection. 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. Rules that prohibited home visits between members of more than two households are also being scrapped.
“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. On Thursday, the nation reported 5,523 new cases, down from a peak of 26,122 on Jan. 8 during the current Omicron-fueled wave. According to a New York Times database, 78 percent of the Irish population is fully vaccinated.
Face masks will still be required indoors in public spaces, such as in stores and on public transportation, for at least another month. A negative Covid test is also still required for all inbound and outbound international travel. These remaining measures will be reviewed by the end of February, by which time the government hopes many more children aged 5 to 11 years old will have been fully vaccinated.
“The pandemic isn’t over,” Mr. Martin said. “It will still require all of us to be vigilant.”