The Irish government has agreed to lift almost all of its Covid-19 restrictions from Saturday, Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Micheál Martin has said.
“Today is a good day,” Mr Martin said, as he told a press conference that the Republic of Ireland had “weathered the Omicron storm”.
He said customers would no longer need to show proof of Covid status to enter hospitality and entertainment venues.
Bars, restaurants and nightclubs will also return to normal trading hours.
Currently, hospitality and cultural venues including pubs, restaurants, cinemas and theatres must close by 20:00 local time.
Mr Martin also confirmed that restrictions on household gatherings would end and the limits on the numbers of people who can attend events were being abolished.
The government is also lifting its rules about working from home, which would allow a gradual return to the workplace to begin, the taoiseach said.
However, rules on wearing masks on public transport and most public buildings will stay in place for now, as he urged the public to continue to follow the remaining public health advice.
Travellers will also still need to use a so-called Covid passport, which shows digital proof of their vaccine status or recent test results, in order to travel internationally.
The taoiseach began his press conference by thanking the public for their cooperation with the emergency health measures and he acknowledged the difficulties the rules had caused.
“When your government asked extraordinary things of you, introduced previously unimaged restrictions on your lives, you responded. You did what you were asked to do,” Mr Martin said.
He told the public that “no one should be in any doubt that your collective efforts have saved many thousands of lives”.
However he said the government would not impose restrictions on personal freedoms “for any longer than is necessary”.
Ministers met on Friday to discuss recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).
On Thursday night Nphet had indicated its support for ending most of the measures put in place to stem the spread of the Omicron variant.
Mr Martin said that information from public health officials had confirmed that the rate of infection was falling and all other key indicators used to monitor Covid were going in the right direction.
He said that Ireland’s vaccination and booster programme had “utterly transformed our situation” and he paid tribute to the efforts of health workers who had put themselves “in harm’s way”.
The taoiseach also warned that the decision to lift the “majority” of Ireland’s Covid restrictions could lead to a temporary rise in infections and he urged people to take up the offer of vaccines.
“I want to be clear also that the pandemic isn’t over. It will still require all of us to be vigilant,” Mr Martin said.
“It is important also to say that I can’t promise you there won’t be further twists in this pandemic requiring different decisions in the future.
“But I do know this – solidarity with each other and trust in science has got us to where we are today and will get us through whatever else this virus may throw at us.”
Mr Martin acknowledged that some people may be anxious about the lifting of restrictions but said it was important for people to look forward to meeting friends and family again.
“Humans are social beings and we Irish are more social than most,” he said, adding it was now “time to be ourselves again”.