Thousands in Republic return to office for first time in more than 18 months

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Leo Varadkar

Q Radio News/PA

The Tanaiste has hailed Monday as a “big day” as thousands of workers in the Republic return to the office for the first time in more than 18 months.

Many businesses are also set to open their doors for the first time since the pandemic began, as restrictions on working from home are eased on a phased basis.

Leo Varadkar also said the Government wants to see remote working become a permanent fixture of Irish working life.

Mr Varadkar said he hopes employers are speaking to staff to “figure out” what works best for them and the business as the phased return gets under way.

He added that the pandemic “transformed” the world of work overnight.

From tomorrow, thousands of businesses, including indoor dance, yoga, pilates studios, art classes and indoor sports and fitness classes, will be permitted to open for up to 100 people, provided all participants are immune.

A requirement to maintain pods of six participants will be in place where those attending have mixed immunity status.

All restrictions on outdoor group activities will also be removed, meaning no upper limit on numbers.

Tanaiste/deputy premier Leo Varadkar

Mr Varadkar said: “Tomorrow is a big day for thousands of businesses who are opening their doors for the first time since the pandemic and thousands of more people getting back to work.

“It has been an incredibly challenging 18 months for those running indoor activities.

“Business owners have had to make huge changes to their business, from moving outdoors to moving online.

“Your efforts to date have doubtless saved lives.

“Now, thanks to the success of the vaccination programme, we are in a position to ease restrictions further and allow these indoor activities to take place, including indoor exercise classes, bands, bowling alleys, amusement arcades, chess, bridge and other indoor activities.

“All restrictions on outdoor group activities will be removed.

“We are now one of the best in the world for vaccine uptake, 90% of people over 16 are now double-jabbed.

“It’s a testament to the Irish people for trusting the science, trusting our healthcare professionals and protecting each other. I wish all those returning to work tomorrow for the first time, the very best and thank you for all you have done over the pandemic.”

It comes as more than 90% of people aged over the age of 16 are now fully vaccinated.

Ireland now has the highest rate of Covid-19 vaccine uptake in the European Union.

Paul Reid, chief executive of the Health Service Executive, said: “Younger people have influenced and shaped this country for the better on many occasions over the past few years.

“They have done so again. Now over 90% of those aged 16 and over have been fully vaccinated.

“The highest uptake in the EU. Truly remarkable and inspirational.”

Professor Brian MacCraith, head of the vaccine rollout programme, said: “A great response from young people has led to another major milestone in vaccine rollout.”

He said that around 93% of people over the age of 18 have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

A further 1,224 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in Ireland.

At 8am on Sunday, there were 278 Covid-positive patients in hospital, with 63 in intensive care.

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