Public health measures for COVID-19

Measures 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.

On 23 February 2021, the Government introduced a revised plan to manage COVID-19 called ‘COVID-19 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. The level that applies to each county depends on the current COVID-19 situation in that county. For more information on the different levels see Plan for living with COVID-19.

Level 5 is in place now

Level 5 restrictions apply to all counties until 5 April 2021.

Stay at home, except:

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

You should not visit other households except for essential purposes.

You can meet with people from one other household outdoors when taking exercise.

Schools are closed except for primary level special schools and special classes in mainstream primary and post-primary schools. From 1 March, all other schools will start to return on a phased basis.

Childcare is closed except for services for vulnerable children and the children of essential workers. From 8 March, childcare will start to return on a phased basis.

Only essential retail can open.

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

Construction work is closed, with some exceptions.

There are restrictions on travel into Ireland and travel abroad.

See further details on Level 5 restrictions.

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 house, except for exercise within 5 km of your home, unless you have a reasonable excuse.

The following list gives examples of reasonable excuses for leaving your home, as set out in Statutory Instrument 701 of 2020, 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. It does not apply if your journey starts in Northern Ireland.

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 be fined €500 for unnecessary travel abroad.

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 5 March 2021. These regulations require all non-essential services and retail outlets to close.

It is an offence to leave your place of residence 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 place of residence if you have left without a reasonable excuse. Failure to comply with this direction is also an offence.

It is unlawful to host an event in a private home unless it is just for the residents or people in a paired household. It is also unlawful to 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

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 into Ireland without a PCR test result, you must take a test within 36 hours of your arrival. It is an offence not to take the test and you can be fined up to €2,500 or receive a prison sentence of up to 6 months, or both.

You must quarantine in the place specified on your passenger locator form for 14 days. You can stop quarantine if you get a negative PCR test, taken no less than 5 days after arrival. Stricter rules apply if you have arrived from a high risk 'category 2' country. You must complete the full 14 days of quarantine.

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, you can be fined up to €2,500 or face 6 months in prison, or both.

There are very limited exceptions where you do not have to complete the quarantine. These include international transport workers and people travelling for urgent medical reasons.

This is set out in Statutory Instrument 44 of 2021 (pdf) which applies until 5 March 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 €2,500, 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
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 €500

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. On 23 February 2021, Level 5 restrictions were extended to 5 April 2021.

Page edited: 23 February 2021