COVID-19 pandemic in the Republic of Ireland

The COVID-19 pandemic reached the Republic of Ireland on 29 February 2020, and within three weeks had spread to all counties. The pandemic affected many aspects of society. On 12 March, the government shut all schools, colleges, childcare facilities and cultural institutions, and advised cancelling large gatherings. St Patrick's Day festivities were called off, and the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, addressed the nation that night. On 24 March, almost all businesses, venues, facilities and amenities were shut; but gatherings of up to four were allowed. Three days later, the government banned all "non-essential" travel and contact with people outside one's home. The elderly and those with certain health conditions were told to cocoon. People were made to keep apart in public. The Garda Síochána were given power to enforce the measures, which were repeatedly extended until 18 May.
The lockdown has caused a severe recession and an unprecedented rise in unemployment, with a longer lockdown forecast to cause greater damage. A COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment and a Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme were set up. The Leaving Certificate, Junior Certificate and all Irish language summer courses in the Gaeltacht were cancelled. The All-Ireland Senior Football and Senior Hurling championships were postponed indefinitely, the National Football League left uncompleted. The Dublin Horse Show was cancelled for the first time since 1940. Other yearly events cancelled included the Tidy Towns competition, the Rose of Tralee, the National Ploughing Championships and Listowel Writers' Week.
The Health Service Executive launched a recruitment campaign, asking both healthcare and non-healthcare professionals to "be on call for Ireland". The previous government of the 32nd Dáil remained in post during the initial several months of the pandemic. Dáil Éireann sat with fewer members due to social distancing requirements. The Oireachtas passed an emergency act giving the state power to detain people, restrict travel and keep people in their homes to control the virus's spread. Further emergency legislation passed the following week.
By mid-April, the National Public Health Emergency Team reported that the growth rate of the pandemic had been driven "as low as it needs to be", that the curve had flattened and that there would be no peak coming.
By 2 August, the Department of Health had confirmed
26,162 cases and 1,763 deaths.
More than 90% of those who have died were aged over 65, and most also had underlying illnesses or lived in care homes.


The surveillance of COVID-19 cases has been integrated into the existing national Computerised Infectious Disease Reporting system since COVID-19 was made a notifiable disease on 20 February 2020. CIDR is the information system used to manage the surveillance and control of infectious diseases in Ireland, both at regional and national level. Daily epidemiological reports on COVID-19 are prepared by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre for the National Public Health Emergency Team. Additional information, including the actual dates of the backlogged cases announced on 10 April 2020, is provided by the Health Service Executive in its daily operations updates.
By 2 August, the Department of Health had confirmed
26,162 cases and 1,763 deaths; a rate of 5,283 cases per million, 357 deaths per million and 128,702 tests per million population.



On 12 January 2020, the World Health Organization confirmed that a novel coronavirus was the cause of a respiratory illness in a cluster of people in Hubei's capital city Wuhan in China, which was reported to the WHO on 31 December 2019.
Though having a case fatality ratio much lower than SARS of 2003, the transmission of COVID-19 significantly outdid its predecessor, with a significant total death toll.
The virus's arrival in Europe was confirmed on 24 January, when the continent's first case was reported in the French city of Bordeaux.
On 23 January, director of the Health Service Executive's 's Health Protection Surveillance Centre said the risk of COVID-19 cases in Ireland was "quite low", "If we were to see a case in a European country the risk of a secondary case – a person transmitting to somebody else – is also low".
Meanwhile, there had been 52 deaths in Ireland from flu during the winter season. HSE Assistant National Director of Public Health and Child Health, Dr Kevin Kelleher, praised China's response to COVID-19 as "utterly open" and "phenomenal". Dublin Airport Authority said that no actions were required while the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had not advised against travelling to China.
The NPHET, a group within the Department of Health, began monitoring the spread of the virus before it was confirmed to have reached Ireland. According to The Irish Times, the NPHET for COVID-19 was created on 27 January 2020. NPHET continued to meet after the virus had arrived in Ireland to co-ordinate the national response to the pandemic. The Coronavirus Expert Advisory Group—a subgroup of NPHET chaired by Dr Cillian de Gascun, the UCD-based Director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory – met for the first time on 5 February in Dublin.

Containment phase

In late February, the Department of Health stated that Ireland was in the Containment Phase of its strategy against the virus, though media briefings with such figures as Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan and de Gascun were already underway.
On 20 February, COVID-19 was added to the list of notifiable diseases legislated in Ireland. As a notifiable disease COVID-19 was included among the list of diseases designated as "infectious diseases". Medical practitioners or laboratory directors, on becoming aware of a notifiable disease, should notify it to a Medical Officer of Health who subsequently notify HSE Health Protection Surveillance Centre.
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. The State did not name the school involved, but—shortly afterwards—the Irish Examiner's Political Editor, Daniel McConnell, tweeted a copy of the letter it had sent to parents informing them it would close.
On 11 March, an elderly patient in Naas General Hospital in County Kildare became Ireland's first fatality from the virus.

Delay phase

On 12 March, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the closure of all schools, colleges and childcare facilities until 29 March. The announcement, which came one day after the World Health Organization formally declared that the outbreak was pandemic, also marked Ireland's movement from the Containment Phase in its strategy to combat the spread of the virus towards the Delay Phase.
On 15 March, the Government ordered bars and public houses to close and advised against house parties.
On 18 March, detailed information about hospital statistics, age range affected, how COVID-19 was spreading, healthcare workers and cases by county was published by the National Public Health Emergency Team starting on this day. It showed that the virus was present in 23 of the 26 counties, with Laois, Leitrim and Monaghan the only three yet to record a case.
On 26 March, 255 cases and 10 deaths were confirmed, bringing the totals to 1,819 cases and 19 deaths, more than double the previous day's total. According to Chief Medical Officer Holohan, most of the deaths occurred in "institutional settings", i.e. hospitals and nursing homes. At this point, deaths began to accelerate rapidly.

Stay at home phase

On 27 March, 302 new cases as well as 3 new deaths brought the total number of confirmed cases and deaths to 2,121 and 22, respectively. Among the deaths was the country's first healthcare fatality, who was based in the east. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced a series of measures which he summed up as: "Stay at Home". Merrion Street described it as "a more intensive phase in our response to COVID-19". The measures, which coincided with an escalating death toll, were also a response to increased reliance on intensive care units to treat critically ill patients, and an attempt to lower this number before capacity was reached.
On 1 April, it was announced that Chief Medical Officer Holohan, who displayed signs of illness during the previous evening's news conference, had entered hospital for non-COVID reasons; Ronan Glynn took charge.
On 10 April, it was reported that there was a discrepancy between the number of cases confirmed by Ireland's Department of Health and the ECDC, due to swab tests sent to Germany for analysis to clear the backlog and testing in Ireland. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced that measures introduced on 27 March would be extended until at least 5 May.
On 14 April, Minister for Health Simon Harris said between 25,000 and 30,000 tests had been sent to Germany and "well over" half of the results had been returned, with the remainder due back by next week. The National Public Health Emergency Team said there would be a "real danger" of a second wave of virus cases, if the changing of restrictions was not done correctly.
On 15 April, a further 657 cases, together with an additional 411 cases from the backlog of tests at the laboratory in Germany, and 38 deaths were reported, bringing the totals to 12,547 cases and 444 deaths. Among the deaths announced, a 23-year-old said to be the youngest person to have died in the country at the time. Also on this date, a spokesperson for the Ireland East Hospital Group confirmed the deaths of two healthcare workers, a man and a woman, at the same hospital in Kilkenny, the man having died at home the previous day and the woman having died in the hospital that day.
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 21 April, Chief Medical Officer Holohan announced that 8,377 people had recovered in the community and that 856 people were discharged from hospital. He also announced that the curve had flattened and that no peak would be coming.
On 29 April, Holohan said, "We estimate that as of Saturday 25th April 12,222 COVID-19 cases in the community have recovered. 1,164 cases have been discharged from hospital which gives us a total recovery rate of 70%."
On 1 May, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the extension of the current restrictions to 18 May at the earliest. A roadmap to easing restrictions in Ireland that includes five stages was adopted by the government and subsequently published online.

Easing of restrictions phase

On 15 May, Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan announced seven children in Ireland had been identified with links to paediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, a new illness temporarily associated with COVID-19. The Government of Ireland confirmed that phase one of easing the COVID-19 restrictions would begin on Monday 18 May. Among the heritage sites reopening under phase one were Cong Abbey, Farmleigh, Kilkenny Castle, Knocknarea, the National Botanic Gardens and Trim Castle.
From 16–17 May, 156 cases and 25 deaths were reported, bringing the totals to 24,112 cases and 1,543 deaths. At this point, cases and deaths began to decelerate.
On 18 May, the government's roadmap of easing COVID-19 restrictions began.
On 7 July, the Health Service Executive released a COVID-19 tracker app that uses Bluetooth technology to record if a user is in close contact with another user, by exchanging anonymous codes, with over one million downloads within two days after its launch.


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.
The military response to the pandemic, which included provision of naval vessels to support onshore testing in Irish cities, was known as Operation Fortitude and initially involved such ships as LÉ Samuel Beckett, LÉ George Bernard Shaw and LÉ Niamh, LÉ Eithne, and LÉ William Butler Yeats. On 15 May, the Naval Service completed its mission and—having been involved in 6,000 tests—transferred its duties to the Army ; the Amy had begun work at the Aviva Stadium the previous day.
Many Gaelic games stadiums were repurposed as drive-through COVID-19 testing centres. These included Croke Park in Dublin; Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork; Nowlan Park in Kilkenny; Gaelic Grounds in Limerick; MacHale Park in Castlebar; Breffni Park in Cavan; Tinryland GFC's facilities south of Carlow ; and O'Donnell Park in Letterkenny.
Among the other drive-through testing centres set up: St Vincent's in Athlone; the Lakeside Centre in Ballyshannon; Castlebar Leisure Complex in County Mayo; St Loman's Hospital in Mullingar; the Clarion Road in Sligo; Tallaght Stadium in Tallaght; a prefabricated HSE-owned building in Waterford near Cherrymount in Ballytruckle, which had been used by St Martin's Special School; the Whitemill Industrial Estate in Wexford.
Former testing sites which were later replaced by the local stadiums mentioned above include Ballyhaise Health Centre in Cavan and the disused St Conal's Hospital in Letterkenny.
Centres ranging from the counties of Cork and Donegal were shut at various times due to lack of testing kits.
Problems with testing kit availability and the global shortage in one of three reagents necessary to complete testing for the virus became pronounced. New equipment was brought into the country from overseas. Two additional laboratories began testing for the virus in mid-April: the Enfer facility in Sallins, County Kildare, and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine's laboratory in Backweston. On 10 April, the HSE and the UCD-based National Virus Reference Laboratory announced a contract for enough reagent to complete 900,000 tests, though Director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory Cillian de Gascun said it was not the reagent that was used in the third stage of testing and thus, already amply supplied. The materials, supplied by Genomics Medicine Ireland Limited, went to the Enfer laboratory. De Gascun also asserted at the same time as this announcement that he had "misspoken" the previous month if he had said tests would be increased by thousands "within days". Scientists based in a laboratory in Sligo began making two types of reagent for COVID-19 testing carried out in the northwest of the country.
After employees complained that the HSE were informing their employers of their results first and many people were first informed of their test outcome by their employer, the HSE said on 19 May that it would stop doing this.
As of 9 March, 1,784 people had been tested.
As of 17 March, 6,636 people had been tested.
As of 21 March, over 10,000 people had been tested.
As of 23 March, 17,992 tests had been carried out.
As of 23 March, around 40,000 people were waiting to be tested and the average wait time was 4 to 5 days. Minister for Health Simon Harris said that priority testing of only healthcare workers might have to be implemented.
On 25 March—to prioritise testing of healthcare workers—the threshold for requesting a COVID-19 test was narrowed. From then a person requesting a COVID-19 test had to: be a healthcare worker; or present with a fever AND at least one other COVID-19 symptom.
By the end of March, 30,213 tests had been carried out.
As of 6 April, 42,484 tests had been carried out, with a positivity rate of 19% over the previous 7 days.
As of 9 April, 53,000 tests had been carried out.
As of 13 April, 90,646 tests had been carried out.
As of 20 April, 111,584 tests had been carried out, with a positivity rate of 19% during the last 7 days.
From 28 April, testing criteria for the virus was broadened again to include anyone with one of the symptoms of fever, recent onset of cough or shortness of breath.
By the end of April, 153,054 tests had been carried out, with a positivity rate of 12.9% over the previous 7 days.
As of 2 May, 188,837 tests had been carried out.
As of 4 May, 214,761 tests had been carried out, with a positivity rate of 3.7% over the previous 7 days.
As of 11 May, 258,808 tests had been carried out, with a positivity rate of 3.3% over the previous 7 days.
As of 18 May, 295,626 tests had been carried out, with a positivity rate of 2.5% over the previous 7 days.
As of 24 May, 310,000 tests had been carried out, with a positivity rate of 2% over the previous 7 days.
By the end of May, 325,795 tests had been carried out, with a positivity rate of 2.1% over the previous 7 days.
As of 1 June, 348,416 tests had been carried out, with a positivity rate of 1.7% over the previous 7 days.
As of 8 June, 367,780 tests had been carried out, with a positivity rate of 1% over the previous 7 days.
As of 14 June, 386,572 tests had been carried out, with a positivity rate of 0.8% over the previous 7 days.
As of 19 June, 396,584 tests had been carried out, with a positivity rate of 0.6% over the previous 7 days.
As of 22 June, 404,989 tests had been carried out, with a positivity rate of 0.5% over the previous 7 days.
As of 29 June, 429,698 tests had been carried out, with a positivity rate of 0.46% over the previous 7 days.
As of 6 July, 473,974 tests had been carried out, with a positivity rate of 0.24% over the previous 7 days.
As of 13 July, 523,277 tests had been carried out, with a positivity rate of 0.32% over the previous 7 days.
As of 20 July, 574,487 tests had been carried out, with a positivity rate of 0.27% over the previous 7 days.
As of 27 July, 619,875 tests had been carried out, with a positivity rate of 0.32% over the previous 7 days.


As cases emerged, hospitals announced visiting restrictions and staff entered self-isolation in enormous numbers. The Mater Hospital in Dublin announced on 6 March that all visitors were banned, with the exception of "those who are visiting patients in critical care, vulnerable young adults, psychiatric patients or those whose loved ones are receiving end of life care". Also on 6 March, six hospitals in the province of Munster—University Hospital Limerick, University Maternity Hospital Limerick, Ennis Hospital, Nenagh Hospital, St John's Hospital and Croom Orthopaedic Hospital—announced visitors were banned and that they would be cancelling all elective surgeries and outpatient appointments for the following Monday and Tuesday. This announcement came after the attendance of a patient at University Hospital Limerick's emergency department two days earlier, who was later confirmed as COVID-19 positive, leading staff to self-isolate and the emergency department to be closed for three hours so that it could be deep cleaned. And again on 6 March—this time in Cork University Hospital, also in Munster—more than 60 members of staff self-isolated after a case of COVID-19 emerged there.
On 29 March, the HSE stated that no hospital in Ireland had then reached intensive care unit capacity. On 8 April, Dublin's Mater Hospital had reached ICU capacity.
A memo sent to staff at Cavan General Hospital on the afternoon of 8 April confirmed 70 doctors and nurses working there had been struck down by the virus. A consultant based at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin informed Today with Seán O'Rourke that staff from Beaumont had been sent to Cavan and that several dozen other medical staff working at Cavan General Hospital, including most senior medical staff and nearly half the hospital's surgical team, had been forced to self-isolate. Less than three weeks after the outbreak at its main hospital, HSE data confirmed that Cavan had overtaken the capital city Dublin as the epicentre of the virus in Ireland. Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys, a TD representing the Cavan–Monaghan constituency, responded to claims that the high number of cases in Cavan and the neighbouring county of Monaghan was due to visitors from across the border, telling Virgin Media News in late-April: "The level of infection in Cavan and Monaghan has nothing to do with people coming from across the border. In fact, there were four residential nursing homes that had outbreaks plus there were also outbreaks among the staff in Cavan General Hospital".
On 29 April, Clonakilty Community Hospital confirmed that nine of its residents had died since 1 April, reducing the number of residents there by about one tenth.
NameTreatmentStatusLocationOrigin typeBirthOccupationSex
Michael CartonHospitalisationRecoveredDublin1984Fireman, former hurlerMale
Ciara KellySelf-isolationRecoveredGreystones1971Broadcaster, columnist, former medical doctorFemale
Claire ByrneSelf-isolationRecoveredBray1975Journalist, presenterFemale
Mark PrendergastSelf-isolationSwordsTravel through Heathrow Airport 19??GuitaristMale
Siobhán KilleenSelf-isolationRecoveredDublin1995Ladies' footballer and association football playerFemale
John PrineHospitalisationNashville1946Country folk singer-songwriterMale
Ryan TubridySelf-isolationRecoveredMonkstown1973Broadcaster, writerMale
Marian McGuinnessSelf-isolationRecoveredCavan1985/6Former ladies' footballerFemale
Tim RobinsonHospitalisationLondon1935CartographerMale
Tom ScullyHospitalisationDublin1930Priest, former football managerMale
Jonathan GlynnSelf-isolationRecoveredNew York City1993Hurler, coachMale
Mary Lou McDonaldSelf-isolationRecoveredDublin"I have no idea how I got it, it will forever be a mystery"1969Politician, President of Sinn FéinFemale
Danny DelaneyHospitalisationPortlaoiseOutbreak at the Maryborough CentreBefore 1950sFormer footballer, former administratorMale
Tom DuffyHospitalisationRecoveredDublin1929Former circus ringmasterMale
Tom MulhollandHospitalisationDroghedaOutbreak at Dealgan House Nursing Home1936Former footballerMale
Dave BacuzziHospitalisationDublin1940Former association football player and managerMale
Laura Bernal-RathminesMid-1950sDiplomat Female
Noel WalshHospitalisationEnnis1935Former footballer, former administratorMale


Social impact

The pandemic has had far-reaching consequences in the country that go beyond the spread of the disease itself and efforts to quarantine it, including political, cultural, and social implications.