What is changing in Ireland with the COVID-19 crisis

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Updated 2020-09-09 08:14

While it's still recommended to avoid travelling for non-essential reasons, Ireland has lifted its border restrictions and currently accepting travellers from most countries. However, a number of conditions to be met to be allowed into Ireland. In this article, you will learn about what's changing regarding entry and visa requirements, work, real estate, education, lifestyle, etc., with the COVID-19 crisis.

What are the current regulations for entering Ireland?

The Irish government has established a Green List for countries whose nationals are allowed to travel there with less strict conditions. However, travellers from countries that are not on the Green List are required to limit their movements, that is, self-isolate for 14 days from their arrival in Ireland. Also, regardless of their country of origin, all travellers must complete a Public Health Passenger Locator Form, which should facilitate contact-tracing if necessary. A printed version of this form is also available at all ports of entry into Ireland. However, failing to produce this form may result in a fine of 2,500 euros and imprisonment for up to 6 months. In case of doubt about the formalities to be completed upon arrival, feel free to contact the Irish diplomatic representations in your home country. Find out more on the Irish government portal.

Have there been any visa changes recently?

The Irish government is being indulgent towards foreign nationals who are already in Ireland with an expired residence permit. For example, residence permits that expire between August 20 and September 20 are automatically renewed for an additional month. This includes short-term visas which were recently extended. However, don't expect to receive a New Irish Residence Permit (IRP) or permission letter for the time being. Once the registration officers start operating normally, you will need to go there in person. Those who live in Dublin, on the other hand, don't have to go to the registration office in Burgh Quay. Since July 20, 2020, the application can be made online. Besides, the 90-days visas held by third-country nationals have been extended for similar periods according to the same provisions. If you're applying for an IRP for the first time, you can request an authorisation letter for your presence in Ireland if you have a General Employment Permit or a Critical Skills Employment Permit. You are also eligible for this letter if you are a trainee accountant, the spouse or partner of a Critical Skills Employment Permit holder, a student, or the spouse of an Irish citizen, or you are a close family member of a protected person in Ireland. However, you must be in Ireland at the time of the request. Find out more on Ireland's official portal.

Is it easy to find work in Ireland following the crisis?

The COVID-19 crisis had a significant impact on the Irish economy and labour market, resulting in massive layoffs in various sectors, as is the case of most countries. Hospitality and catering, information and communications technology, marketing, construction, architecture and real estate, retail and wholesale sales and purchases, travel, aviation and tourism are the most affected sectors by the crisis. There were layoffs in human resources and recruiting, advertising, banking, financial services and insurance, and charity as well. The unemployment rate, therefore, rose from 4% in January 2020, the lowest rate in more than a decade, to 16.7% in June, according to the figures published by the Central Statistics Office. Unemployment is expected to reach 25% over the next few months as layoffs are ongoing in many sectors while thousands of employees have been temporarily laid-off. It's worth noting that the youth unemployment rate, that is for people aged 15 to 24 is currently up to 41.2% while that of people aged 25 to 74 is at 13.7%. Still, some sectors, such as healthcare, logistics, food, medical devices, science and pharmaceuticals, and education, are currently recruiting. However, as an expat, you're less likely to be able to find a job in Ireland after the crisis.

How has the Irish healthcare system performed during the crisis?

Fortunately, the Irish government reacted quickly to the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis in the country. Around twenty private hospitals were designated by the government to provide free healthcare like public hospitals. So the health system could rely on 2,000 additional beds, 47 ICU beds and 600 day beds, as well as 9 laboratories and 194 ventilators. The normal capacity of the Irish public health system is 11,000 beds and 2,300 day beds. Hotels, especially in Dublin, were also designated for quarantine. Still, the capacity of the Irish healthcare system remains below the OECD average, with an occupancy rate of 95%, the highest in Europe. There are 5.2 ICU beds for every 100,000 inhabitants, which is insignificant. The lack of medical staff is another serious issue. In fact, the health system fell short of 2,641 nurses and midwives from 2008 to 2017. The number of hospital beds also decreased due to poor investment in the health sector. Besides, the country is home to only 140 primary health centres. Today, even though the situation seems to be under control, hundreds of new COVID-19 cases are being reported every day. Infected patients are advised not to go to the hospital, to self-isolate as soon as possible and to contact a general practitioner by phone. Your doctor will assess your health condition and determine whether you need a test. Fortunately, COVID-19 screening tests and treatment are free of charge. If your test is positive, then you will need to provide the names and contact details of the people you have met during the past 48 hours. Following contact-tracing, they will be required to self-isolate, even if they don't have any symptoms. Note that COVID-19 treatment is free of charge for expats as well. Also, prescriptions are currently valid for 9 months and can be refilled by pharmacists. With telehealth becoming increasingly popular, doctors can also email prescriptions directly to pharmacies. Find out more information on Ireland's official portal.

Has anything changed regarding universities and schools?

All schools in Ireland have reopened in a flexible way while respecting social distancing and other health regulations. It's worth noting that the Irish education system is in favour of hybrid classes, that is to say, a mixture of face-to-face classes and distance learning, until the situation improves. Also, students of different classes are required not to mix with other groups so as to limit the risks. Short breaks and lunchtime have also been rescheduled to avoid gatherings. Arrangements have also been made for children having health issues and who cannot attend face-to-face classes. However, the wearing of masks is not required for children under 13. At the secondary level, wearing a mask is compulsory for students and teachers when a distance of 3 meters cannot be respected. Also, students are required not to move from one classroom to another, so school officials and teachers have to ensure that movement within the school premises is limited. Note that Ireland is home to some 4,000 primary and secondary schools with nearly 1 million young students. Regarding transportation, 1,600 additional school buses are now available in order to guarantee social distancing on board. On the other hand, parents are advised to encourage their secondary school children who are secondary school students to cycle or walk to school to avoid using public transport. Find out more on the Irish government website. The new academic year in Ireland is resuming from mid-September to early October 2020 with date ranging from one university to another. International students in Ireland with visas that expired between July 20 and August 20 have seen their visas renewed for one more month provided they are still enrolled in a university, even if the courses are held remotely. Also, all theoretical and practical exams were postponed until further notice. Those who could not access to alternative arrangements have not been penalised. They will be given a chance to complete their studies later, under the directives of their respective universities. International students who lost their jobs during the crisis are also eligible for the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment, which will in no way affect the renewal of their immigration status.

How is the real estate market following the crisis?

According to a study by Daft.ie, property prices in Ireland are on the rise since the start of the crisis. In fact, the Housing Market Report highlights a 5.5% price drop in April, followed by an average 3.7% rise in May, mainly due to a 22% drop in real estate transactions as of June 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. The number of new real estate listings has also dropped significantly. According to another study by MyHome, there was a 4.3% price rise between June and August 2020. The average price of a house is thus around € 280,000. In Dublin, prices rose by 2.9%, so count € 383,000 on average for a property in the city centre. In the suburbs, count on average 234,000 €, which represents a 4.7% rise. According to real estate experts in Ireland, many projects have been put on hold, which probably accounts for the price rise. However, the demand for property in Ireland remains high, as evidenced by 3,397 new bank loans applications in July 2020, according to the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI), which translates into a 50.1% rise compared to June 2020 -- 1,883 of these applications were filed by first-time buyers. So if you are looking to buy property in Ireland during your stay, now is probably not the right time. Rents prices also dropped by 5.5% in April, followed by a 3.7% rise in May. Across the country, count around € 1,398 for rent, although prices tend to vary from one region to another.

Has the cost of living in Ireland changed because of the crisis?

Dublin, the Irish capital, is one of the world's most expensive cities, so it's not surprising that the COVID-19 affected the cost of living in Ireland. As indicated above, rent and property prices increased significantly increase during the past few months. But that's not all! The prices of certain foodstuffs, particularly imported products, are also on the rise. On the other hand, the local produce is slightly cheaper.

How about lifestyle? Have there been major changes in habits following the sanitary crisis?

The COVID-19 crisis led to a lot of changes in the lifestyle in Ireland. Today, the wearing of masks and social distancing are the new norm. Besides, the government put implemented a series of restrictions. For example, "cocooning" (movement restrictions) is recommended for people over 70. Regarding social life in Ireland, it's worth noting that visiting people indoor and outdoors is limited to 6 people from a maximum of 3 different households, while gatherings and outdoor events are limited to 15 people. Sports activities and matches are still being held behind closed doors, but you can go the gym, swimming pool, or do yoga and pilates, and attend dance classes. However, there is a limit of 6 people indoors and 15 people outdoors. At weddings, a maximum of 50 people, including the staff, are allowed. This rule also applies to cultural places such as art galleries, cinemas and theatres, as long as social distancing is respected. Restaurants and bars are required to close at 11.30 p.m. and only accept 6 people at a table. Also, you are allowed to spend a maximum of 2 hours at a restaurant table or in a bar.

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