Public health measures for COVID-19


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.

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 Government has set out a Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business. The roadmap is divided into 4 phases that are each planned to last for 3 weeks. Ireland entered Phase 1 of the roadmap on 18 May 2020 and Phase 2 on 8 June 2020.

Phase 3 started on 29 June and Phase 4 will start on 20 July 2020.

Phase 3 of the Government roadmap

Phase 3 of the roadmap started on 29 June 2020.

You should continue to follow advice to protect yourself and others. The Health Service Executive (HSE) has produced Stay Safe Guidelines, including a booklet and posters with advice for various situations.

You can have gatherings that follow public health advice, with up to:

  • 50 people indoors
  • 200 people outdoors

You can travel anywhere in Ireland, including to offshore islands.

Read more about what you need to do to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Work and business

You should continue to work from home if you can.

Employers should follow the Return to Work Safely Protocol for returning workers.

Cafés and restaurants can serve food and drink on the premises.

Pubs and hotel bars can open if they are operating as restaurants. (Other pubs, bars and hotel bars are due to reopen in Phase 4).

Other businesses can reopen:

  • Hotels, hostels, caravan parks and holiday parks
  • Wellbeing services, for example:
    • Massage therapy
    • Acupuncture
    • Reflexology
    • Chiropractic
    • Homeopathy
  • Beauty and grooming services:
    • Hairdressers
    • Barbers
    • Nail and brow salons
    • Beauty salons
    • Spas
    • Make-up application
    • Tattooing and piercing
    • Tanning salons
  • All remaining retail businesses (for example, bookmakers), services and commercial activities

See guidelines for reopening businesses below.

Face coverings

You must wear a face covering on public transport.

In situations where social distancing is difficult, you are recommended to wear a face covering.

Read questions and answers on wearing face coverings.


Up to 50 people may attend indoor funeral services and up to 200 can attend outdoor services.


The following can reopen:

  • All adult education facilities
  • Creches, childminding facilities and pre-schools
  • Summer camps
  • Youth clubs
  • All indoor and outdoor amenities for children


Driving schools can reopen and driver testing can resume.

Private transport, such as private buses, can be used for tours and events.


Sporting activities can resume including:

  • Close contact sports
  • Organised spectator sports and fixtures
  • Team leagues for adults and children

Exercise venues can reopen:

  • Indoor gyms and exercise facilities
  • Yoga, pilates and dance studios
  • Sports clubs
  • Public swimming pools

Culture and entertainment

Venues can reopen:

  • Theatres, museums, galleries and other cultural venues
  • Cinemas
  • Music venues (excluding nightclubs and discos)
  • Leisure facilities
  • Bingo halls
  • Amusements parks, arcades and skating rinks

There are recommendations for singing and playing musical instruments in groups.

Phase 4 of the Government roadmap

Phase 4 is planned to start on 20 July 2020.

Pubs, bars, hotel bars and casinos may reopen.

Gatherings of up to 100 people indoors and 500 outdoors will be allowed.

Guidelines for reopening businesses

Some sectors have published practical guidelines to help businesses prepare to reopen safely.

Shopping centres: all retail units in shopping centres are now allowed to open. Shopping centres should follow the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) COVID-19 Shopping Centre Recovery and Protection Guide (pdf). The NSAI guidance provides help with:

  • Implementing physical distancing measures
  • Introducing queue management systems
  • Managing restroom usage, car parking facilities and other common areas like lifts, escalators and walkways

You can read more in our document on Shopping during COVID-19.

Pubs: Pubs (serving food) can reopen from 29 June and should follow Fáilte Ireland’s operational guidelines for re-opening pubs (pdf). Measure include:

  • Seating time will be 105 minutes with an extra 15 minutes between bookings for cleaning (2 hours in total).
  • Contact information of a lead guest should be collected for the purposes of contract tracing.
  • 1 metre physical distancing can be implemented where 2 metre physical distancing is not possible. However, businesses will have to implement extra measures, including additional signage to ask customers not to enter if they have symptoms.
  • Procedures to manage restroom usage, entry points, function rooms, smoking areas, kitchen cleaning and disinfection and deliveries.

Other hospitality: Fáilte Ireland’s operational guidelines for re-opening all sectors (pdf) provides general advice for the hospitality sector on safe reopening from 29 June. There are also specific guidelines for:

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) Act 2020 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

During the COVID-19 emergency, various regulations have given An Garda Síochána additional powers, including arrest without warrant. These powers have been amended from 29 June 2020 with the introduction of Statutory Instrument 234 of 2020. The amendments reflect the easing of some restrictions in line with Phase 3 of the updated Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business. The amendments are scheduled to apply until 20 July.

It is an offence not to comply with some regulations. These include:

  • Organising an indoor event for more than 50 people
  • Organising an outdoor event for more than 200 people
  • Opening certain businesses to the public, including nightclubs, casinos and pubs serving alcohol without a substantial meal

Any offence is punishable by a fine of up to €2,500, up to six months imprisonment, or a combination of both.

Other penalties

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 may 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) Act 2020 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

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, 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 extended from 5 May 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.

Page edited: 6 July 2020