A further 5,156 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed on Sunday, as new testing rules for travellers arriving into the State come into force.
The number of people hospitalised with the virus in Ireland has returned above 500, after temporarily falling below that figure on Saturday. As of Sunday morning, there were 503 people hospitalised, with 110 people receiving treatment in intensive care units.
The total is up 16 from Saturday morning when the number of Covid patients in hospital fell to the lowest level in almost four weeks at 487, prompting Tánaiste Leo Varadkar to tweet that the Government’s plan to tackle the virus “is working”.
New Covid testing rules for travellers came into force at midnight on Sunday, following a 48-hour delay to allow airlines prepare for checks.
All incoming travellers, except those travelling from Northern Ireland, must now present a negative test result in order to enter the State, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated against or recovered from Covid-19.
Those with proof of vaccination can show a negative, professionally administered antigen test carried out no more than 48 hours before arrival or a PCR test taken within 72 hours before arrival.
Those who are unvaccinated must show a negative PCR test result.
The move, described by Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary as “nonsense” and “gobbledygook”, came in response to concerns about the spread of the Omicron variant.
The Government on Friday also announced strict new limits on the hospitality sector and home visits as it moved to push down Covid infection rates, after “stark” warnings from officials that the new Omicron variant could add to pressure on the health service.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has warned that up to 1,700 people could be in hospital with Covid in early January, if the new Omicron variant becomes dominant and social contact increases to the levels seen last December.
While it is currently “impossible to quantify the level of risk” from Omicron, Nphet said, this may become clear only “when it may be too late to take mitigating measures”.
Under the new restrictions, nightclubs will close from Tuesday until at least January 9th. Indoor hospitality will be limited to parties of six adults with table service only, and indoor cultural, entertainment and sporting events will be limited to half a venue’s capacity.
Advice has also been issued that households should not host more than three other households in their home, while the use of the Covid cert is to be extended to gyms and hotel bars and restaurants.
Meanwhile, after flights to and from Morocco were suspended earlier this week until at least December 13th, amid fears over the spread of the variant, more than 150 passengers departed Morocco for Ireland on Saturday on a repatriation flight.
The 156 passengers on the flight from Marrakech to Dublin included Irish citizens, as well as citizens of several other European Union countries and the UK.