Publicans say ‘the weight has been lifted’ as Covid rules cease, towns ‘buzz’ with ‘freedom party’ planned for St Paddy’s

IRELAND has started to get craic again as almost all Covid restrictions were lifted today – leaving pubs, restaurants and clubs to resume normal operations.

Businesses have expressed joy and optimism after NPHET and the government finally let the sector start again – and publicans are predicting that the March bank holiday week will become “a mini festival” or a “freedom party”.

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Bartender Daniel Smith of the Grogan’s pub enjoying a pint in DublinCredit: PA: Press Association
Patrons of the Grogan pub in Dublin as coronavirus restrictions eased across the country

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Patrons of the Grogan pub in Dublin as coronavirus restrictions eased across the countryCredit: PA: Press Association

Taoiseach Micheal Martin announced yesterday that the vast majority of all Covid-19 measures will cease from 6am this morning after being given the green light by public health experts earlier in the week.

The only rules that remain in place relate to the wearing of face masks, self-isolation after testing positive for the virus and the use of Covid passes for international travel.

But boozers and nightclubs have been given the green light to return to normal service with late opening hours, bar service, no contact tracing and no social distancing – and the requirement for a coronavirus cert to access hospitality has also been dropped.

And Noel Anderson, who is the general manager of two high-profile Dublin bars, Lemon & Duke and Bridge 1859, told the Irish Sun on Sunday that the city center was “buzzing” as pubs finally got a win.

He said: “One of the first things I saw this morning when I walked into The Bridge was two people sitting at the counter – one having a Guinness and the other a cup of tea.

“And I just thought, ‘God, that’s beautiful to see,’ because I hadn’t seen that in almost two years.

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“There were a lot of people for rugby, the city center is absolutely buzzing.

“It’s all a bit surreal. It’s surprising that everything happened so quickly, but we will win our victories. We’ve had so few over the past two years, so there’s a real sense of optimism.

He continued, “It really feels like a weight has been lifted.

“Given everything the hospitality industry has been through and what people have been through, both financially and mentally, it will take a while to get over it, but it’s a great day.”

PARTY FEELING

Boozer supremo Noel said he’s excited to be back hiring DJs and said hopes are high for the future, including St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

He said: “I think the long bank holiday weekend will turn into a mini festival – and I think everyone will enjoy it.

“Businesses will be affected the day before on Wednesday, and then Thursday is St. Patrick’s Day. The Saturday, Ireland are at home against Scotland (in the Six Nations) and on Sunday people will do a recovery day.

“So it has the makings of a fabulous few days and I think a lot of people will take that time to potentially leave or go down country, so I can see countryside towns and villages getting a good bit of a boost from that as well. It is also essential for them.

“It has the potential to be a two-year anniversary celebration of freedom, so it will be very interesting to see how that develops.”

INDUSTRY RELIEF

Patrick McGowan, co-owner of Bad Bobs in Dublin, has revealed his booking system has ‘exploded’ with punters looking to return to have fun. He told us: “It’s surreal, to go from zero to a hundred in such a short time.

“But it’s a huge weight on your shoulders, you wouldn’t understand the relief of being allowed to reopen as normal.

“Our online reservation system was working well, but it has completely exploded since the restrictions were lifted with people wanting to reserve tables. We’re back to walk-in, first-come, first-served, but the reservation system is a great indicator.

“We expect him to be as busy as possible. We can’t go all out yet, but we’ll definitely throw a party.

Daniel Smith, bartender at Dublin’s Grogans, said the atmosphere was “brilliant” after restrictions were lifted.

He added: “It’s been a long time coming – it’s been 22 months now. Finally coming back is a bit surreal. Many times over the past two years we thought we would never make it on this day, so going back is special.

BACK TO NORMAL

Addressing the nation yesterday, the Taoiseach told the public it was ‘time to be ourselves again’.

And Corkman Martin would have been disappointed if his first day of freedom was spent watching his county brutally lose the McGrath Cup to Kerry at the Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney, 2-17 to 0-11.

Live events and sporting events could also return to full capacity.

Guidelines advising to limit home visits have also been removed and workers across the country Ireland will return to their offices in stages starting tomorrow.

Protective measures will remain in place in schools until at least the end of February. They will be examined at this time, by which time all children between the ages of 5 and 11 will have had the chance of being bitten.

During his address to the nation, the Taoiseach said he could not promise ‘there will not be further twists and turns in this pandemic requiring different decisions in the future’.

And his comments were echoed by the World Health Organization which also urged caution.

Dr. Margaret Harris said Covid-19 is still a major global threat, as more than 18 million new cases and 45,000 deaths were recorded worldwide in the past week.

She said: “Where different countries, different societies see a reduction, it is reasonable to start looking at how you negotiate the new normal. But it’s certainly not over yet. For individuals, it is essential that you always know what your situation is. Have you been vaccinated? Has your family been vaccinated? Are you in an area where there is still ongoing transmission?

“It’s very important that while the overall signal is that things are improving, also think at your own risk.”

On the prospect of future variants, Dr Harris said the WHO expects there to be more and “the jury is still out on what this virus can do”.

It comes as health officials today reported 6,689 new cases of the virus, while 3,911 people recorded a positive antigen test via the HSE portal.

Meanwhile, about 1,000 people demonstrated in Dublin city ​​earlier today calling for an end to all Covid restrictions – the day almost all were removed – and an end to masks in schools.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin present at the McGrath Cup final

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin present at the McGrath Cup finalCredit: Rex Features
Will and Laura, with their dog Alfie, having a drink at Grogan

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Will and Laura, with their dog Alfie, having a drink at GroganCredit: PA: Press Association
Andrea Byrne and Grainne Finn of Mayo and Roscommon at the Old Stand in Dublin

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Andrea Byrne and Grainne Finn of Mayo and Roscommon at the Old Stand in DublinCredit: Gary Ashe – The Dublin Sun

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