More than 90% of those who died were aged over 65, and 93% had underlying illnesses or lived in care homes, with a median age of death at 82 years old. During 2020 and 2021, the country had one of the world's lowest excess death rates, which is an overall indicator of the pandemic's impact, at an estimated 12.5 deaths per 100,000 population.
The Republic's first lockdown was the longest in Europe, especially for hospitality and retail. It caused a severe recession and an unprecedented rise in unemployment. Infections and deaths dropped to low levels by June and restrictions were gradually lifted, while schools remained closed for summer break. Pubs remained shut, the longest such closure in Europe.
In October, another statewide lockdown was imposed following a surge in cases, excluding schools. In early December, Ireland's infection rate was the lowest in the EU, and restrictions were eased. There was another surge in late December, and on Christmas Eve, another statewide lockdown was imposed. This was soon tightened to include schools, and was one of the strictest in the world. The vaccination programme began on 29 December, and has been praised as one of the most successful rollouts in the world.
In February 2021, the government imposed testing and quarantine rules on incoming travellers for the first time. Infections fell sharply, and schools re-opened in March. The lockdown was gradually lifted from May, but unlike most of Europe, indoor hospitality remained shut. Infections rose again in July due to the Delta variant but there were fewer deaths. Indoor hospitality reopened under strict rules, while vaccinations sped up. Despite Ireland's high vaccination rate, there was another surge in late 2021 due to the Omicron variant, with record-breaking cases being reported. Proof of vaccination or non-infection became mandatory to enter most indoor venues, but the government imposed another curfew on indoor hospitality from 20 December. Cases fell sharply, and the majority of restrictions, including mandatory mask wearing and social distancing, were eased in January and February 2022.
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) launched their Epidemiology of COVID-19 in Ireland Data Hub in February 2022. The Data Hub provides the latest data relating to cases, deaths and outbreaks in Ireland.
By 10 August 2022, the Department of Health had confirmed 1,650,791 cases and 7,743 deaths; a rate of 326,626 cases per million, 1,524 deaths per million and 2,490,003 tests per million population.
^ abThe large increases in the cases counts on 2020-08-07 and 2020-08-08 is due to a number of clusters and outbreaks in counties Kildare, Laois and Offaly resulting in the announcement of a three-week regional lockdown for the three counties.
^The large increase in the cases count on 2020-08-15 is due to multiple clusters and outbreaks with secondary spread of disease in all provinces of Ireland.
On 27 February, the first case on the island of Ireland was announced—a woman from Belfast who had travelled from Northern Italy through Dublin Airport. Two days later, on 29 February, the first confirmed case in the Republic of Ireland was announced involving a male student from the east of the country, who had arrived there from Northern Italy. Authorities shut a secondary school linked to the case as a precautionary measure.
On 11 March, an elderly patient in Naas General Hospital in County Kildare (south-west of the country's capital city, Dublin) became Ireland's first fatality from the virus.
On 15 March, the Government ordered bars and public houses to close and advised against house parties.
On 27 March, TaoiseachLeo Varadkar announced a national stay-at-home order with a series of measures which he summed up as: "Stay at Home". The measures, which coincided with an escalating death toll, were also a response to increased reliance on intensive care units (ICUs) to treat critically ill patients, and an attempt to lower this number before capacity was reached.
On 15 April, a 23-year-old became Ireland's youngest person to die with the virus at the time.
On 16 April, the National Public Health Emergency Team reported that lockdown and other measures had driven the growth rate of the pandemic "as low as it needs to be" and was "close to zero".
On 1 May, TaoiseachLeo Varadkar announced the extension of the current restrictions to 18 May at the earliest. A roadmap to easing restrictions in Ireland that included five stages was adopted by the government and subsequently published online. COVID-19 restrictions began to be eased from Monday 18 May.
On 4 October, following an increase in cases, the National Public Health Emergency Team recommended the highest level of restrictions for the entire country – Level 5 for four weeks. The Government rejected NPHET's recommendation, and instead moved every county in Ireland to Level 3 COVID-19 restrictions with improved enforcement and indoor dining in pubs and restaurants banned.
After 1,205 cases—the highest number of confirmed cases recorded in a single day since 10 April—was confirmed by the Department of Health on 15 October, on 16 October, NPHET recommended the Government to move the entire country to Level 5 restrictions for six weeks.
On 19 October, the Government agreed to move the entire country to Level 5 lockdown restrictions.
COVID-19 restrictions began to be eased from 1 December, with the reopening of all non-essential retail shops, hair and beauty providers, gyms and leisure centres, cinemas, museums and galleries, while thousands of restaurants, cafés, gastropubs and hotel restaurants reopened three days later.
On 30 December, the Government agreed to move the entire country to full Level 5 lockdown restrictions from midnight until 31 January 2021 at the earliest.
On 31 December, a further 1,620 cases and 12 deaths were reported, bringing the end of 2020 totals to 91,779 cases and 2,237 deaths.
On 2 January 2021, it was revealed that there were approximately 9,000 positive COVID-19 tests not yet logged on the HSE's IT systems, due to both limitations in the software; and lack of staff to check and input details, meaning there is an effective ceiling of approximately 1,700 to 2,000 cases that can be logged each day.
On 6 January, COVID-19 restrictions were re-imposed statewide, which included the closure of schools.
On 30 January, Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan announced that more cases had been confirmed in one month than throughout 2020 with over 1,000 deaths and more than 100,000 cases confirmed in January.
On 31 January, a further 1,247 cases and 15 deaths were reported, bringing the totals to 196,547 cases and 3,307 deaths.
On 28 February, Ireland officially marked one year since the first case of COVID-19 in the country was confirmed on 29 February 2020. A further 612 cases and 6 deaths were reported, bringing the end of February totals to 219,592 cases and 4,319 deaths.
COVID-19 restrictions began to be eased throughout the summer, despite the arrival of the Delta variant in June. By 24 June, 210 cases of the Delta variant had been detected in Ireland.
On 29 June, due to the rapidly increasing incidence of the Delta variant, the Government announced that the planned reopening of indoor dining and drinking in restaurants and pubs on 5 July would be delayed until at least 19 July when a system to verify vaccination or immunity would be implemented, while 50 guests would be permitted to attend wedding celebrations as an exception from July.
Cases increased again in July, which was caused by the Delta variant.
People who were awaiting full vaccination were urged to "take every precaution", with the highest cases among the 16–34 age cohorts, a significant shift from previous waves. On 17 July, a further 1,377 cases were reported, the highest recorded in six months.
Despite the increasing cases, the Government agreed that indoor dining in pubs and restaurants could resume on Monday 26 July for fully vaccinated and COVID-19 recovered people, after PresidentMichael D. Higgins signed the legislation underpinning new guidelines into law.
On 14 September, Chief Medical OfficerTony Holohan warned that new COVID-19 restrictions could not be ruled out and "may be required in the future", despite very high levels of COVID-19 vaccine uptake.
Daily cases began to surge again in October. A further 2,002 cases were reported on 8 October.
Remaining COVID-19 restrictions, including the reopening of nightclubs and requirements on social distancing, mask wearing and vaccination certificates, were due to be eased on 22 October.
On 19 October, the Government announced that nightclubs were allowed to reopen on 22 October, but vaccination certificates, social distancing and mask wearing measures would remain in place. A further 2,399 cases were reported, the highest daily number since 22 January. On the day nightclubs reopened, a further 2,466 cases were reported, the highest daily number since 21 January.
On 11 November, a 14-year-old teenager became Ireland's youngest person to die with COVID-19. 5,483 cases were reported the next day. A further 5,959 cases were reported on 20 November.
On 30 November, a further 5,471 cases were reported, bringing the totals to 570,115 cases and 5,652 deaths.
On 1 December, the Omicron variant arrived in Ireland. On 3 December, COVID-19 restrictions were re-imposed amid concerns of the Omicron variant, with nightclubs to close, bars and restaurants to revert to six adults per table and no multiple table bookings allowed, indoor cultural and sporting events to operate at 50% capacity, a maximum of four households allowed to meet indoors and the requirement of vaccination certificates extended to gyms, leisure centres and hotel bars.
On 9 December, health officials announced that five further cases of the Omicron variant had been detected, bringing to six the total number of cases that had been identified in Ireland following whole genome sequencing. On 12 December, four additional cases of the variant were detected, bringing to 10 the total number of cases that had been identified. Cases of the Omicron variant continued to increase rapidly.
Further COVID-19 restrictions were imposed on 20 December for the Christmas period, with an 8pm closing time for bars, restaurants, live events, cinemas and theatres. A further 7,333 cases were reported the next day, the highest number reported since early January. On 19 December, the Omicron variant became Ireland's dominant variant after it was confirmed that 52% of cases were now due to the variant.
On Christmas Day, a record 13,765 cases were reported, while a further 16,428 cases were reported on 29 December. Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan expressed concern and stated that "every individual should consider themselves potentially infectious". A record 20,554 cases were reported the next day, as it was confirmed that 92% of cases were now due to the Omicron variant. Holohan urged people to keep social contacts low and not to hold household gatherings on New Year's Eve, while Minister for HealthStephen Donnelly announced new advice on COVID-19 testing and the period of isolation.
On 31 December, a further 20,110 cases were reported, bringing the end of 2021 totals to 788,559 cases and 5,912 deaths. On New Year's Day, 23,281 cases were recorded, as health officials warned that the true number of cases was likely to be higher, due to increased pressure on the PCR testing system. On 8 January, a record 26,122 cases were reported – the highest daily number reported since the pandemic began. By 10 January, 1,000,000 total cases had been confirmed, with more cases recorded in the first five days of 2022 than in the whole of 2020.
Cases fell sharply after the 8 January peak, and on 21 January, TaoiseachMicheál Martin announced the easing of almost all COVID-19 restrictions, with the requirements of vaccine certificates and social distancing to end, restrictions on household visits and capacity limits for indoor and outdoor events to end, nightclubs to reopen and pubs and restaurants to resume normal trading times, while rules on isolation and the wearing of masks in certain settings would remain. Remaining restrictions were agreed to be removed from 28 February, with mask wearing in schools, indoor retail settings and on public transport to be voluntary, restrictions in schools to end and testing to be scaled back, while it was agreed that the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) be disbanded.
By March 2022, cases and hospitalisations began to increase again, as Ireland entered a new wave of the Omicron variant.
Despite this, celebrations took place across the country to mark St Patrick's Day, following a two-year absence due to COVID-19, with around 400,000 people attending festivities in Dublin. Figures showed on 21 March that 63,954 people had tested positive for COVID-19 since St Patrick's Day. The World Health Organization said Ireland eased restrictions too "brutally" and was now seeing a spike in cases as a result.
Dr Tony Holohan announced a few days later that he would step down as Chief Medical Officer on 1 July, after being appointed to a new role at Trinity College Dublin. This caused several days of controversy, and as a result, Holohan announced that he would retire as CMO on 1 July and would not take up his planned academic position at TCD.
On 27 March, hospitalisations reached its highest level in 14 months with 1,569 COVID-19 patients. Two days later, Minister for HealthStephen Donnelly said there were no plans for restrictions to be re-introduced, despite the number of COVID-19 cases likely to be "hundreds of thousands" per week, while he said the BA.2 variant now accounted for about 95% of cases in Ireland.
A new COVID-19 advisory group was established on 8 April 2022. By early April, case numbers began to decrease but remained high. On 16 April, hospital and ICU numbers continued to decrease to its lowest levels since 5 March.
By 20 June, there were 606 patients in hospital with COVID-19, an increase of 153 from the previous week. HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said he was "very concerned", while a virologist at UCD said it was too late to reintroduce mandatory mask wearing, adding that the latest wave of infection had been "completely predictable".
Maura Byrne, a 95-year-old woman, became the first nursing home resident in the Republic of Ireland to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on 5 January 2021, while Dr Eavan Muldoon, an infectious diseases consultant, became the first healthcare worker in the Mater University Hospital to receive the vaccine.
By 10 September, 90% of adults in Ireland were fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Ireland's vaccination rollout has been praised as one of the most successful rollouts in the world and was ranked number one in the European Union in terms of its percentage of adult population fully vaccinated, and was also ranked number one in the EU for the number of booster vaccines administered.
The developing and delivering of testing of Ireland was led by the staff in the National Virus Reference Laboratory. With the acquisition of the sequence of the virus, they used this to develop and validate in-house assays in advance of obtaining any commercial diagnostic kits. The NVRL played a vital role in the early detection of COVID-19 cases in Ireland, and began playing a vital role in the detection of new variants of COVID-19 in 2021.
A garda checkpoint on the main street of Maynooth, April 2020.
An Irish paramedic en route to a so-called "query case" during the pandemic in Ireland.
Two pints of stout delivered fresh from a pub. The delivery service of pints was a novel innovation of the pandemic in Ireland. The Garda Síochána—upon taking legal advice—confirmed that there was no law against the service.