Despite new Covid case numbers remaining high, the ban on household visits will be lifted from Friday, 18th December
The lift was initially to be until, Wednesday, January 6th, but this week the Government have said they will hold an emergency National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) prior to this date if case numbers continue to rise.
In the interim, people can meet with up to two other households (so, three households altogether).
Previously, people were only allowed to visit those in their own household bubble.
People will be allowed to travel outside their county for, as of now, almost three weeks until January 6th.
The ban on inter-county travel will also be lifted for that period.
However, the public is asked to limit their interactions to one main gathering during the Christmas period to help stop the spread of the virus.
The Taoiseach announced in November that gathering restrictions would be relaxed so people could have a "meaningful Christmas."
However, on Thursday, while he has said the government will not be changing the Covid-19 restrictions regime for Christmas but that people should expect new restrictions “before the new year. ”
Related: New: Taoiseach says NPHET has recommended restrictions to hospitality before the end of the year
He told RTE Six One news that a final decision would be made on this on Tuesday.
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) December 17, 2020
"I think before New Year’s Eve is how I would put it. Obviously, the timing of that and the specific nature of the restrictions would have to be decided on by government, I’m not going to preempt a government decision, but we’re very mindful of what NPHET will say to us in this regard. And as I said we want to protect the hospital system," he said.
The news comes after ministers in Northern Ireland announced the region will begin a new six-week lockdown from St Stephen's Day amid rising Covid-19 cases.
Following the announcement of a further 484 new cases of Covid-19 on Thursday evening with three additional deaths, NPHET has said they are very concerned about the potential, rapid rate at which the virus could spread in the Republic.
“The 5-day moving average is 387 per day– this is an indicator that the disease is moving quickly when compared to the previous 5-day average. The virus is spreading throughout the country, in all age groups," Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said at a press conference on Thursday.
“We are now getting reports of outbreaks in social settings including workplace settings, Christmas parties and funerals. I cannot stress enough how important it is to limit your interactions now. The consequences of not doing so will be exponential growth in January, a substantial increase in hospitalisations and risk to life.”
"We are concerned that Ireland is now in a phase of rapid growth, which if allowed continue, will result in 700 – 1200 cases per day by the second week in January, if not sooner. We are particularly concerned about older people and vulnerable adults, who have protected themselves through the second wave, and are now at risk during the festive season,” added Professor Philip Nolan, chair of NPHET’s epidemiological modelling group.
The public has been urged to vitally adhere to the basics in terms of social distancing, mask-wearing and keeping their contacts to a minimum in the coming days and weeks.