At a Cabinet meeting today (Wednesday 19 January) the government has agreed to pay healthcare workers a bonus of €1,000 tax free for their work during the pandemic. The bonus will also be paid to nursing home staff, hospice staff, ancillary staff and army personnel who carried out testing during the pandemic.
Signs of Life Returning After Covid-19
The government has also announced details of an additional public holiday this year, to fall on Friday 18 March allowing for a four-day holiday weekend over St. Patrick’s Day.
Next year a new public holiday will fall on the first Monday of February to mark St. Brigid’s Day. It will commemorate St Brigid and also the ancient Celtic festival, Imbolg which marks the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.
There are also signs of optimism that the current restrictions, particularly on the hospitality industry, meetings of groups both indoors and outdoors, may be relaxed by the end of the month. A number of ministers have hinted that this may be the case.
The Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told a Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting on Tuesday night he expected a rapid de-escalation of restrictions, and hoped that March 31 would become a deadline for almost all measures to lapse. Covid-19 numbers have fallen hugely in the past two weeks, from 26,122 on 8 January to 5,767 today.
The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said yesterday, he hoped a combination of built-up immunity and widespread boosters would make for a “big reduction in public health measures in place” and a situation where there was “as minimal an impact as possible on people’s lives, whilst maintaining background surveillance on the disease”.
Ireland has already withdrawn the requirement for a negative PCR test on entry for those visitors that are fully vaccinated since 6 January. The reduction in restrictions should mean an improvement in business for the tourism and hospitality industries. It will aso mean a return to work for many people still receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.