Ireland currently has the second lightest Covid-19 restrictions in the world, according to an ongoing analysis from Oxford University.

The study of 185 countries around the world ranks Ireland only behind Mongolia in terms of current restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of the virus.

Just over a year ago in February of 2021, the same global stringency index from Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government said Ireland’s Level 5 lockdown was the strictest in the European Union and among the toughest in the world.

Following the mass rollout of Covid-19 vaccines to the population during 2021, Ireland moved to lift remaining restrictions in early 2022 after an unprecedented wave of the disease driven by the Omicron variant peaked.

At the end of January, restrictions including limits on household gatherings, a curfew for the hospitality sector and the use of vaccine passes to access certain indoor activities were lifted as the Taoiseach said Ireland had “weathered the Omicron storm.”

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The legal requirement to wear a face mask on public transport, in retail and in other indoor public settings later expired at the end of February.

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However, Ireland is now in the midst of a second major surge of the variant, although politicians and public health officials this time have not moved to reinstate restrictions or ramp up the test and trace system in response to the spread of the disease.

The surge has prompted calls for a return to the use of face masks and social distancing in some indoor settings, while the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation has also called for a temporary halt to elective care as hospitals feel the pressure of the new wave.

The number of people hospitalised with Covid-19 has increased by 25 per cent in the past week, with 1,569 people with the disease currently receiving treatment in the health system. 52 people are in intensive care units (ICU).

Ireland’s recent handling of the Covid-19 pandemic has been criticised by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which said the country lifted restrictions “brutally” from “too much, to too few”.