Seeing the word “final” in print or online can have different effects on the reader. Irish people are often reminded of the “All-Ireland Final” and it’s great to think about those big sporting events featuring Gaelic football and hurling. For others, however, “final” might awake memories of receiving a “final notice” demanding payment of some half-forgotten bill.
As I write, however, the word lifts my heart with joy and relief when I read the following on the website of the Irish Department of Health: “The government has agreed Ireland’s plan for the next and final phase of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic”.
The statement was updated just last Wednesday September 22nd and it continues: “Over 88 percent of the population over 18 are fully vaccinated, with almost 92 percent of adults (aged 18 and over) having received at least one dose.”
Hallelujah, we are getting back our freedom! Most of the restrictions are to be lifted and instead we will receive “guidance and advice” so that we can protect ourselves and “live our lives to the fullest extent possible”.
Live entertainment, indoor conferences, live music, indoor sporting events are taking place with 60 percent of the venue’s maximum, and art and dance classes, have been taking place with up to 100 people, provided everyone has been fully vaccinated or has recovered from COVID-19 in the past six months.
The pubs are open and diners are back on the scene! If you have had two doses of the vaccine and can produce evidence in the form of a card or an app on your phone, this facilitates access to pubs and restaurants.
Live music is allowed at weddings.
And Ireland’s many festivals are making a comeback. The Galway International Oyster & Seafood, which takes place on the last weekend in September, is already sold out, although limited to one day instead of four.
It was said long ago by President Thomas Jefferson that “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance” but it’s great to be told at the same time that a new dawn is approaching.
The Government’s plan is to end most COVID-19 restrictions by 22 October 2021 when, subject to public health advice, vaccination or recovery certificates will no longer required in order to go to an indoor restaurant, pub or other venue, but will still be needed for international travel. Restrictions on numbers for events such as wedding and religious ceremonies will no longer apply.
And on another positive note, there is much relief at the announcement on September 20th by the White House that air-travel to the US for fully-vaccinated adult foreign nationals will resume in early November. Further details are expected on Travel.State.Gov. As for travel in the opposite direction, the following link to the US Embassy website tells us that “for travelers arriving into Ireland from the United States who present valid proof of vaccination, no travel-related testing or quarantine is necessary”. Now that’s good news!
Deaglán de Bréadún is a freelance journalist and author based in Dublin. He is a columnist with The Irish News and his books include ‘The Far Side of Revenge: Making Peace in Northern Ireland’ and ‘Power Play: The Rise of Modern Sinn Féin’ as well as three books in Irish. His reporting on the Good Friday Agreement negotiations and their aftermath for The Irish Times won the Northern Ireland IPR/BT award for Daily News Journalist of the Year.