Public health measures for COVID-19

Introduction

Ireland has plans in place to deal with public health emergencies such as COVID-19 (coronavirus). These plans are in line with the global plans by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Centre for Prevention and Disease Control (ECDC).

The WHO has declared that the spread of coronavirus is a pandemic. A pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease. A pandemic can happen when most people have little or no immunity to a new virus and can transmit it to each other, causing outbreaks in the community.

Public health measures in Ireland

The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, and Minister for Health, Simon Harris, have issued strict guidelines for people to stay at home from midnight on 27 March 2020.

The main rule is to STAY AT HOME. You can only leave your home to:

  • Travel to or from work if you are providing an essential service
  • Shop for food. You can get the list of essential retail outlets from gov.ie.
  • Collect medical prescriptions and medical supplies and go to medical appointments
  • Carry out vital services like caring (including family carers)
  • Exercise briefly within 2 kilometres of your house. (You can bring children but must keep 2 metres away from others for social distancing)
  • Do farm work

You cannot arrange a gathering with anybody you do not live with. Everyone who can work from home must work from home. This includes essential workers and workers in essential government, utilities or other functions. You can only travel to work if you are providing an essential service.

Cocooning is introduced to protect people over 70 and people who are extremely medically vulnerable to COVID-19. This means that their interaction with others is minimised and that these people should not leave their homes. Even within their homes they should minimise all non-essential contact with other members of their household. Read more about what cocooning is and what you should do.

These measures are in place until until Sunday 12 April. Read more about the new measures on gov.ie.

Previous measures

The Government published Ireland’s National Action Plan in response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus) (pdf).

The first stage of the plan to respond to coronavirus in Ireland was the containment strategy which aimed to find all cases early, identify contacts and stop it spreading. The second stage was the delay stage, which aimed to slow down the spread of the virus, by minimising contact between potentially infected people and healthy people.

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 to 19 April 2020, along with further measures announced on 24 March 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Social distancing

The spread of coronavirus can be reduced by limiting contact between people. You can reduce your contact by avoiding shaking hands or other close contact and by keeping a distance of 2 metres (6 feet) from other people. You can download signs to encourage social distancing for use in public places and other locations.

Reduce social interactions as much as possible. If you are in a place with other people, be sure to practice protective personal hygiene measures.

Restricted movements or self-quarantine

If you are a close contact of someone who is confirmed to have coronavirus but you do not have symptoms, you need to restrict your movements to make sure you do not pass the virus to others. This means avoiding contact with other people and social situations as much as possible. This is also known as self-quarantine.

You may be a close contact if, for example, you share accommodation with an infected person or you have had more than 15 minutes face-to-face contact within 2 metres of an infected person.

If you have been in close contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus, a public health doctor will tell you this. You also need to restrict your movements if you’re returning to Ireland from certain countries affected by coronavirus.

Read advice about how to restrict your movements.

Self-isolation

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, you need to stay indoors and completely avoid contact with other people to avoid passing on the virus. Contact your GP by phone.

You will need to self-isolate:

  • If you have symptoms of coronavirus
  • Before you get tested for coronavirus
  • While you wait for test results
  • If you have had a positive test result for coronavirus

Read advice about how to self-isolate.

Emergency legislation

Public health measures

On 20 March 2020 the President signed the Health (Preservation and Protection and Other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Bill 2020 (pdf) 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

Detentions and penalties

Failure to comply with a regulation will be an offence, and the Gardaí have been given special powers, including the power to arrest without warrant, to enforce any regulation made under the Act.

The Act also allows for detention where it is believed by a qualified medical person that a person is:

  • A potential source of infection and
  • A risk to public health and
  • Detention is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19

A person will be only be detained if they refuse to remain in a specified place like their home or a hospital, or cannot be isolated in any other way.

A person detained will be tested as soon as possible and will be able to ask for a review of their detention by an independent person on the grounds they are not a source of infection. Failure to comply with a detention, or interfering with the detention of a person will be a criminal offence.

Other measures

On 27 March 2020, the President signed the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Bill 2020 (pdf) into law.

The legislation includes measures to:

  • Prevent the termination of residential tenancies and increases in rent
  • Allow for the disregard of certain time periods and deadlines in planning and building legislation
  • Extend the period that an employee must be temporarily laid off or on short time for before they can claim redundancy
  • Simplify the registration process to help recruit retired health professionals
  • Facilitate the operation of the mental health tribunals during the pandemic
  • Introduce a temporary wage subsidy scheme
  • Support re-enlistment of former members of the permanent defence force

Page edited: 30 March 2020