Overview of COVID-19 (coronavirus)

Introduction

COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways.

Ireland's first case of coronavirus was confirmed on 29 February 2020. You can get detailed information on Ireland's response to COVID-19 (coronavirus) and the latest updates on gov.ie.

Current measures in Ireland

The Government has introduced restrictions to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

In general, you should not leave your home, with limited exceptions. Read about what you can and cannot do in our document COVID-19: What you need to do. It includes additional information for people who:

  • Are over 70 or extremely medical vulnerable, who should be cocooning
  • Are in other at-risk groups, including over 60s and people with certain medical conditions
  • Have coronavirus or symptoms of coronavirus
  • Have been in close contact with someone who has coronavirus

Read more about public health measures for COVID-19.

Health

The Health Service Executive (HSE) provides health information on coronavirus, including:

  • The symptoms and causes
  • How to protect yourself and others
  • Groups at increased risk from coronavirus and what they should do

If you develop symptoms, you will need to self-isolate and phone a GP. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. The GP will assess you over the phone. If they think you need to be tested for coronavirus, they will arrange a test. Your test and GP assessment will be free of charge.

Testing for COVID-19

Read about testing for coronavirus, including:

  • Who can get a test
  • What to do when you are waiting to be tested
  • What happens when you are tested
  • How you get test results

Other health measures and resources

During the pandemic, the Health Service Executive (HSE) is recruiting additional staff to work in the health services.

The rules for prescriptions have changed so that they now have an extended validity of 9 months and can be renewed by pharmacists. Doctors can send prescriptions to pharmacies by email. See our document on prescribed drugs and medicines for more information.

The Private Hospitals Association has agreed that private hospitals will be used as part of the public healthcare response to the COVID-19 emergency for 3 months. Private health insurance providers have agreed to give customers rebates for this period. You do not need to do anything to apply for these payments. The insurers have different arrangements to give health insurance customers payments and other supports.

Healthy Ireland has produced advice on how to look after your mental and physical wellbeing during the pandemic.

The HSE website, Ask about alcohol, has information on alcohol and how it affects your health and wellbeing. It has advice on alcohol use during the pandemic and how to access alcohol support services.

The HSE health information on COVID-19 is available in a range of languages.

Income supports

People who have lost employment

The Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme was announced on 24 March. It is run by Revenue and allows employers to continue to pay their employees during the COVID-19 public health emergency. The scheme refunds employers up to a maximum of €410 for each qualifying employee. It will run for 12 weeks from 26 March 2020.

If your employer cannot continue to pay you and has to lay you off during the COVID-19 emergency or you are self-employed and your trading income has ceased due to the emergency, you can claim the new COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

You can find out more about social welfare payments and the COVID-19 public health emergency.

If your working hours are reduced to 3 days or less per week you should apply for Short Time Work Support which is a form of Jobseeker’s Benefit.

Under the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (COVID-19) Act, you cannot claim redundancy during the emergency period if you were laid off or put on short-time work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

People who are ill

The Illness Benefit and Supplementary Welfare Allowance rules have been changed to help prevent the transmission of coronavirus.

If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 or are medically required to self-isolate, you can get enhanced Illness Benefit or Supplementary Welfare Allowance.

Employment

Read about your employment rights during COVID-19 restrictions and the rights you have in common situations.

You can also read information and advice on working from home during COVID-19.

When workplaces reopen, they must follow return to work safety protocols which set out the steps that employers and employees must take to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

The Health and Safety Authority has a range of workplace resources including social distancing signs and COVID-19 public information posters for use in various settings.

Registering a birth or death

The requirement to attend a civil registration service to register a birth or death has been suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can read more about death and bereavement during COVID-19.

Mortgages and loans

On 18 March 2020, the 5 retail banks (AIB, Bank of Ireland, KBC, Permanent tsb and Ulster Bank), along with their representative body the Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) announced a series of measures to support people and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The measures include non-bank mortgage lenders and credit servicing firms, and were extended to include a payment break of up to 6 months on 30 April 2020.

If you are experiencing financial difficulty during the COVID-19 pandemic, you should contact your bank as soon as possible to discuss the options available.You can read more in our document on Your finances and COVID-19.

You can get advice on whether your existing mortgage application will be affected by the COVID-19 emergency in our document on Your finances and COVID-19.

Local authority mortgages

On 14 April, the Minster for Housing, Planning and Local Government confirmed that forbearance arrangements have been put in place for local authority mortgages during the COVID-19 emergency. Measures agreed include a mortgage payment break of up to 3 months for people with mortgage loans from their local authorities and who need a payment break.

The original home loan balance will not be affected as interest will not be charged during the break. You should contact your local authority for more details. Application forms and detailed information will be available on each local authorities’ website.

Tenants and rent

Emergency measures were announced on 19 March 2020 to protect tenants impacted by COVID-19. During the emergency period:

  • Notices to quit cannot be given to tenants
  • Evictions cannot take place in most circumstances
  • Rents cannot be increased

These provisions are set out in the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 (pdf).

While tenants are expected to pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic, income supports and Rent Supplement are available to you if you are struggling to pay. These supports are provided by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. Any rent arrears built up will be payable, but landlords have been asked to show understanding and reach local arrangements in these circumstances.

If you are a tenant and you will have problems with your rent payments as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, you should engage as soon as possible with your landlord.

You can read more about these changes and get advice about what to do if you are having difficulty paying rent in Renting and COVID-19.

Family law

You can read about

Due to increased demand for support at this time, domestic violence organisations have extended and adapted their services during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you feel in immediate danger, call 112 or 999. Members of the Gardaí are specially trained to deal with these situations.

Our document Safety order, protection orders and barring orders has information on the services available.

Utilities

Energy and gas suppliers

With effect from 8am on 17 March, the following measures have been put in place to help you remain connected to your electricity and gas supplies during this period:

  • Domestic disconnections are suspended until at least 16 June
  • Emergency credit levels for prepaid (Pay As You Go) gas meters will increase from €10 to €100
  • Suppliers will offer online and over the phone top up services if you have a prepaid (Pay As You Go) electricity meter and cannot reach a shop

You can read the full announcement on the website of the Commission for Regulation of Utilities.

Telecoms providers

The following measures were announced on 15 April 2020, to help you remain connected for calls and data during the COVID-19 emergency:

  • If you are a fixed broadband customers and do not have unlimited usage already as standard, you can upgrade your package (which may be on a temporary basis), with your current service provider
  • If you do not have fixed broadband and you rely solely on mobile access to the internet, you can avail of affordable unlimited mobile data access/package from your service provider
  • Service provides will not automatically apply fair usage policies to unlimited fixed and mobile data packages. However, they can implement appropriate permitted traffic management measures to avoid network congestion.
  • Where technically feasible, access to healthcare and educational resource websites identified by the Government will be free for all customers
  • Service providers will help if you are in financial difficulty as a result of the COVID-19 emergency and have difficulty paying your bills. Your provider will help to agree an affordable solution to keep you connected for calls and data.
  • Service providers will work with ComReg on complaints from consumers who feel they are not being treated fairly in relation to these commitments

All major providers have signed up to the Covid-19 Consumer Commitments, including BT Ireland, eir, Pure Telecom, Sky Ireland, Tesco Mobile Ireland, Three Ireland, Virgin Media Ireland and Vodafone. Check the website of your provider for more details.

The commitments will remain in place until at least 30 June 2020.

You can read more in the full Government announcement.

Education

All schools, colleges and childcare facilities in Ireland closed on 12 March 2020 due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The Government Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business (pdf) includes the phased opening of schools and colleges in the new academic year 2020-2021.

Parents will get refunds for school transport fees while schools are closed.

While children are at home, they should practice social distancing such as minimising social contact, avoiding meeting up and keeping physical space between them and other people.

Parents and guardians are urged to support their children to maintain this approach. The Department of Education and Skills has information about Talking to children and young people about COVID-19 (pdf).

Barnardos has launched Parentline to support parents during the COVID-19 emergency period.

You can find more information about childcare and COVID-19.

Leaving Certificate and Junior Certificate exams

The Leaving Certificate written and practical exams have been postponed. Students have been given the option of accepting calculated grades or sitting their written exams at a later date when it is safe to do so. Calculated grades will be based on an estimated score provided by class teachers and principals, as well as information held by the State Examinations Commission. You can read more about how calculated grades will operate.

There will be no exam fees in 2020. All exams fees that have already been paid will be refunded.

You can read more about the new Leaving Certificate arrangements.

The admissions process for higher education, managed by the Central Applications Office (CAO), will operate as closely as possible to the usual timeframe for offers and the entry date for first year students will be delayed.

The Junior Certificate exams due to take place in June are cancelled.

The Department of Education and Skills will award all third year Junior Cycle students a certificate of completion of the Junior Cycle. Find out more about the assessment of the Junior Cycle in 2020.

Third level education

You can read about third level education and COVID-19.

Immigration

Our document, Immigration and employment permits during COVID-19 has information about:

  • Renewing immigration permission
  • Visas
  • International protection
  • Employment permits
  • Student visas

Returning to Ireland

You can read our document on returning to Ireland and COVID-19.

Travel

You are currently advised to avoid traveling abroad unless the travel is essential. The advice against non-essential travel applies until further notice.

If you must travel abroad, you should follow the travel advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Read the HSE advice if you are arriving in Ireland from another country.

Passports

Passport offices are closed from 30 March until further notice. If you have already applied for a passport, or have applied to renew your passport, the application will be processed once normal services resume. The Passport Service’s phone line is also closed during this period.

Post offices are not accepting Passport Express applications, and you cannot attend the passport office in person. If you wish to apply for a new passport, you can use the passport online service.

Cancellation and your consumer rights

You can read about your rights if your trip abroad is cancelled, or if you cannot travel because of coronavirus, in our document travel plans and COVID-19

Driving and public transport

You can read about driving and public transport during COVID-19.

Older people

You can read our documents:

Further information

If you have a question about your situation during the COVID-19 emergency period, you can call the Citizens Information Phone Service (CIPS) on 0761 07 4000 or request a call back from the Citizens Information Service.

For people with hearing and speech difficulties and for others who have difficulty communicating by telephone, CIPS provides Live Advisor webchat.

Deaf Irish Sign Language users can get information about COVID-19 (Coronavirus) using the Irish Remote Interpreting Service (IRIS). The Irish Deaf Society have produced a series of ISL videos on COVID-19 and the supports available.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has information on coronavirus for health professionals and for non-health settings including education.

The latest reported figures on coronavirus from the World Health Organization (WHO) include the number of confirmed cases by country and a map. WHO global situation reports are also available.

Further information on the situation is also available through the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

You can access sources of updated information on COVID-19 in the EU/EEA and the UK on the ec.europa.eu website.

Page edited: 26 May 2020