Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan has said that the new restrictions beginning today will substantially cut the volume of total social contact across society if people follow “not just the letter but the spirit” of the guidelines.
Dr Holohan said that “it is now down to people individually” to confine social engagements to small groups of people and not to meet up with multiple groups of people over Christmas time.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he said people should look to cut out discretionary contacts and that there are no plans to introduce stricter measures before Christmas.
However, he said that NPHET will continue to monitor the situation over Christmas and is available to give more information to the Government if need be.
Dr Holohan said that the new restrictions are intended to protect against a significant increase in hospitalisations and the wider protection of public health.
He said that they are also in place to protect the country’s ability to deliver education, childcare and other essential services.
Dr Holohan said that Ireland is potentially at risk from a major surge of the virus that is now being felt in countries including Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and the UK.
He said the effects of the Covid-19 vaccines in terms of protection are maintained in the face of the Omicron variant, although NPHET has to monitor how well it holds up.
He said a lot of misinformation is being spread by some in society in relation to vaccines, which is not helpful.
Dr Holohan said if current case numbers were happening a year ago without vaccines, then the situation would be far worse.
Asked if he had discussed further restrictions with the Taoiseach, Dr Holohan said: “I know there was a report in one of the newspapers yesterday to say there was a firm plan for us to meet on the 30th of December to announce a lockdown at that point and that we’d already indicated as such to him. That’s simply untrue”
Dr Holohan said the Taoiseach himself over the weekend had made it clear that “nothing is ever ruled in”, adding that NPHET continues to monitor the effect of measures.
The latest restrictions, announced by the Taoiseach last Friday, came into effect at midnight.
Micheál Martin said they will help the country get to the other side of the current wave as safely as possible.
From 8pm today, all restaurants, bars and cafés, excluding takeaway or delivery services, will be required to shut their doors.
Indoor events scheduled earlier in the day should limit attendance to 50% of capacity or 1,000 people, whichever is lower.
Outdoor events will also be limited to half capacity, to a maximum of 5,000 people.
Wedding receptions can take place after 8pm, but with a capacity limit of 100 guests. Religious services are exempt from the restrictions.
Enhanced measures also come into play for people deemed close contacts, with those yet to receive a booster vaccine having to restrict their movements for ten days.
Those who are one week since their booster face restricting their movements for five days, and are to take three antigen tests.
The measures aimed at curbing the spread of the Omicron variant, which is now the most dominant strain in Ireland, will remain in place until 30 January.