Public health measures for COVID-19

Measures and restrictions currently in place

The Government has introduced measures to control the spread of COVID-19.

You should follow public health advice to protect yourself and others, including advice on social distancing.

The Government introduced a revised plan to manage COVID-19 called ‘Resilience and Recovery 2021: The Path Ahead’.

The plan continues to set out 5 levels of restrictions. Level 1 has the fewest restrictions and Level 5 has the most. For more information on the different levels see COVID-19 restrictions in Ireland.

Level 5 is in place now

All counties are currently on Level 5.

Work from home, unless your work is an essential service that cannot be done from home.

You can travel within your county or up to 20 km from your home.

Two households can meet outdoors, away from their gardens.

You should not visit other households except for essential purposes.

If you are fully vaccinated, you can meet with another fully vaccinated person indoors.

Schools and childcare services have fully reopened.

Only essential retail can open.

Bars, cafes and restaurants are closed except for take-away food and delivery.

Construction work has resumed on residential units, schools and childcare facilities.

There are restrictions on travel into Ireland and travel abroad.

See further details on Level 5 restrictions.

Easing of restrictions

From April 19:

  • Training for adult inter-county GAA teams can take place
  • High performance athletics, approved by Sport Ireland, can resume

Later in April, there will be a further easing of restrictions for outdoor activities and funerals. A further review of restrictions will take place on 4 May 2021.

Support bubbles

Under Level 5 restrictions, you should not have visitors to your home unless they are part of your support bubble.

A support bubble, also called a paired household or an extended household, is when an isolated person from one household has close contact with one other household. In a support bubble, the 2 households can meet indoors, even though they do not live together.

There are special rules about who can form a support bubble. You can only form a support bubble if you:

  • Live alone
  • Live alone with children under the age of 18
  • Share parenting or custody arrangements
  • Live with an adult you provide care for
  • Live by yourself and have a carer or carers who support you, including a live-in carer

If you are an essential worker and you do not have an existing childcare arrangement, you can form a bubble with another household for childcare.

You can form a support bubble with one other household that is not already part of a support bubble.

Travel restrictions

While Ireland is at Level 5, you should not leave your relevant travel area unless you have a reasonable excuse. Your relevant travel area is within your county or 20 km from your home.

The following list gives examples of reasonable excuses for leaving your relevant travel area, as set out in Statutory Instrument 168 of 2021 (pdf), as amended:

  • Traveling to work if you cannot work from home
  • Giving care to a vulnerable person or attending to other vital family matters
  • Shopping at essential retailers
  • Farming and other agricultural activities
  • Going to school or bringing your child to school
  • Going to college where it is necessary to attend in person
  • Accessing childcare services
  • Travelling to visit your children as part of an access arrangement, or travelling to allow access to children
  • Attending a medical or dental appointment, or going to a medical or dental appointment with a vulnerable person or someone you live with
  • Going to another person’s house if you are in a support bubble with them
  • Seeking essential medical help for yourself, someone you live with or for a vulnerable person
  • Donating blood
  • Going to the vet
  • Going to a wedding or funeral
  • Going to court, obeying your bail instructions, attending court offices to initiate emergency legal proceedings
  • Moving accommodation where it is necessary
  • Travel to the airport or port to leave Ireland if you normally live in another country
  • Fleeing domestic abuse or escaping danger

A Garda can give you a fixed charge notice of €100 for travelling without a reasonable excuse.

Mandatory quarantine

By law, you must quarantine when you arrive into Ireland, unless your journey starts in Northern Ireland. If you arrive from a high risk country, or do not have a negative PCR test as required, you have to quarantine in a designated hotel.

Travel abroad

You must only travel abroad if it is essential to do so. The permitted reasons for travelling abroad are set out in Statutory Instrument 29 of 2021 (pdf).

You can receive a fixed payment notice for €2,000 for unnecessary travel abroad or be at risk of court prosecution.

Emergency legislation

On 20 March 2020, the Health (Preservation and Protection and Other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020 was signed into law.

The Act gives the Minister for Health the power to make regulations to introduce measures to slow down the spread of the virus.

Under this Act, the Minster can make regulations to:

  • Restrict travel to and from Ireland
  • Restrict travel within Ireland to stop people moving to and from affected areas
  • Stop gatherings of people from taking place, and to make organisers of these gatherings put safeguards in place to prevent the virus from spreading
  • Make businesses (such as shops) put safeguards in place to protect their staff and customers
  • Close premises, including schools

Laws in place now

The Government continues to issue guidance to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. It has also passed laws that make it an offence to do or not do certain things.

Current restrictions are set out in the Health Act 1947 (Section 31A - Temporary Restrictions) (COVID-19) (No. 10) Regulations 2020, as amended, which apply until 4 May 2021. These regulations require all non-essential services and retail outlets to close.

It is an offence to leave your relevant travel area without a reasonable excuse and you can be fined by a Garda for doing this. A Garda can also ask you to return to your relevant travel area if you have left without a reasonable excuse. Failure to comply with this direction is also an offence.

By law, you cannot host an event in a private home unless it is just for the residents or people in a paired household. You also cannot go to an event in someone else’s home unless you are part of a paired household. If you do not comply, it is an offence and you can get a fixed penalty notice or be prosecuted.

Gardaí have the power under the Health (Amendment) Act 2020 to attend at the entrance of any private home where they believe an unlawful gathering is happening and direct any non-residents to leave it or direct those approaching not to attend.

The following laws apply until 9 June 2021:

International travel during COVID-19

You must complete a Passenger Locator Form on or before your arrival in Ireland and tell the authorities if your residence details change within 14 days. This is set out in the Health Act 1947 (Section 31A – Temporary Requirements) (COVID-19 Passenger Locator Form) Regulations 2021.

You must have proof of a negative COVID-19 test (PCR) when you arrive in Ireland from anywhere other than Northern Ireland, unless you are in an exempted category. The test must have been taken no more than 72 hours before you arrived. When you arrive, you must show your proof and co-operate with the requests of officials.

If you arrive in Ireland from a high risk country, you have to quarantine in a designated hotel. If you arrive in Ireland from any country without a negative or not detected PCR test result, you will also have to quarantine in a designated hotel.

There are very limited exemptions from mandatory hotel quarantine.

These regulations are set out in the Health (Amendment) Act 2021(pdf).

It is an offence if you do not follow the hotel quarantine laws or obstruct a designated official or a member of An Garda Síochána seeking to enforce these hotel quarantine laws. You can be fined up to €2,000 or be sentenced to imprisonment for up to a month or both.

If you arrive from any country that is not high risk and you have a negative PCR test result, you must quarantine for 14 days at home or in your place of residence. The quarantine obligation applies if you travel to Ireland through Northern Ireland. It does not apply if your journey starts in Northern Ireland.

If you do not quarantine at home or in your place of residence, you can be fined up to €5,000 or face 6 months in prison, or both. There are very limited exceptions where you do not have to complete home quarantine.

Home quarantine regulations are set out in Statutory Instrument 135 of 2021 (pdf), as amended, which applies until 9 June 2021.

Detentions and penalties

During COVID-19, various regulations have given An Garda Síochána additional powers, including arrest without warrant.

Offences are punishable by a fine of up to €5,000, up to six months imprisonment, or a combination of both.

Fines and fixed penalty notices

For certain offences, you can be fined a fixed amount. A Garda can give you a fixed penalty notice. If you do not pay it within 28 days, you can be prosecuted in court.

A Garda can issue the following fixed penalties under the Health Act 1947 (Fixed Payment Notice and Dwelling Event Provisions) (COVID-19) Regulations 2020, as amended:

Offence Fixed charge
Not wearing a face covering on public transport, without a reasonable excuse €80
Not wearing a face covering in a retail outlet, or other specified premises, without a reasonable excuse €80
Travelling without a reasonable excuse €100
Attending an unlawful social or recreational gathering in a home €150
Attending an unlawful social or recreational gathering in a place other than a home €100
Organising an unlawful social or recreational gathering in a home €500
Organising a prohibited event that is not in a home €500
Travelling to a port or airport without a reasonable excuse €2000

Detention due to health risk

The Health (Preservation and Protection and Other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020 also allows for detention of someone who is a potential source of infection and risk to public health, if it is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19.

You may be detained if you refuse to stay in a specified place like your home or a hospital, or you cannot be isolated in any other way.

If you are detained, you will be tested as soon as possible and you can ask for a review of your detention by an independent person on the grounds you are not a source of infection. Failure to comply with a detention, or interfering with the detention of a person is a criminal offence.

Previous measures

Measures to delay the spread of the virus taken on 12 March 2020 included closing schools, colleges, childcare facilities and state-run cultural institutions. Hospital visits were restricted. Pubs were advised to close. These measures were extended, along with further measures announced on 24 March 2020.

On 10 April, the measures were extended until 5 May 2020. On 1 May, it was announced that most of the measures would be further extended to 18 May 2020.

Phase 1 of the roadmap for reopening society and business started on 18 May and lasted until 8 June 2020. Phase 2 of the roadmap for reopening society and business started on 8 June and lasted until 29 June 2020.

Phase 3 of the roadmap for reopening society and business (pdf) started on 29 June 2020.

On 15 July 2020, it was announced that Phase 3 would be extended by 3 weeks. On 4 August 2020, the start of Phase 4 was delayed for a further 3 weeks. Additional measures were announced on 18 August 2020.

Resilience and Recovery 2020–2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19 (pdf) was published on 15 September 2020. Level 2 of the plan applied to all counties.

Level 3 was introduced for Dublin from midnight 19 September 2020, for Donegal from midnight 25 September and for all other counties from midnight 6 October 2020. Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal moved to Level 4 from midnight 15 October 2020. Every county in Ireland moved to Level 5 from midnight 21 October 2020 until midnight 30 November 2020.

A phased move to Level 3 was introduced on 1 December 2020, with some exceptions in place for the Christmas period. Non-essential retail, gyms, museums, libraries, cinemas and places of worship reopened.

On 4 December 2020, cafes, restaurants and bars serving food reopened with some restrictions.

From 18 December 2020, you could travel outside your county and up to 3 households could meet indoors as part of the eased restrictions for Christmas. This was intended to last until 6 January.

However, on 24 December 2020, Level 5 restrictions with some adjustments were introduced. On 30 December 2020, full Level 5 restrictions were introduced until 5 March 2021.

Resilience and Recovery 2021: The Path Ahead was published on 23 February 2021. Level 5 restrictions were extended to 5 April 2021.

Page edited: 15 April 2021