The new Covid rules: what you can do – and what you can't

There is one simple answer: wherever you live, reduce your social contacts now

I’m bamboozled by the current Covid rules. How do I explain them to children? 

The Government’s National Framework for living with Covid-19 is really just a chart outlining the maximum number of people that can gather together reasonably safely in different settings depending on the spread of the virus. All children need to know is that they have to keep their distance from people outside their immediate family and the children in their pod in school. “You can still hug and show affection to your children but don’t hug the neighbour’s children,” says Prof Sam McConkey, head of the Department of International Health and Tropical Medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Remind children that the best way to keep the virus at bay is to wash their hands regularly, sneeze/cough into their elbow and avoid touching their face.

Some parents are all on for “play dates”. Others don’t return my calls. Who’s right? Are there circumstances in which they can go ahead? 

Current research points to children being at low risk of catching and spreading Covid-19, which is why schools re-opened. However, to avoid vulnerable family members catching the virus – or indeed catching the flu virus, which children spread much more easily– it’s best to ask children to play with the children that are in their pods at school. “It’s not about following the Government rules in a slavish, authoritarian way. It’s about keeping family, friends and grandparents safe, so children should play with the same friends that are in their school bubble and play outside if possible,” says McConkey.

Elderly relatives are pretty cheesed off at this point. How can I get them to understand and follow the current protocols? 

McConkey says that older people are the group which is taking this pandemic the most seriously. “Older people are very aware of Covid-19. Almost every older person knows someone who has died from this. Now that local area data is available for the virus, I would like to see people in local government offices, parishes, sports clubs take leadership on this so that people understand more clearly the risk in their areas. So, in Blanchardstown at the moment, older people should stay at home but there are several parts of the country with zero cases where older people could be guided to do things differently.”

There’s a small family celebration planned for the weekend after next, involving some adult siblings and their children. I don’t mind shrinking it a bit but how big a group can I get away with? 

To abide by the Government guidelines on Covid-19, you should have a maximum of six people inside or 15 outdoors from up to three households if you live outside of Dublin. If you are living in Dublin – or any other county which moves to Level 3 restrictions – you can have up to six visitors from another household inside or outside your home.


The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has pointed out that household gatherings have been one of the main ways that the novel coronavirus has spread in August and September. Dr Ronan Glynn, the acting Chief Medical Officer has asked everyone – regardless of what county they live in – to reduce their social contacts for now, in an attempt to prevent a sharp increase in the number of people becoming seriously ill with Covid-19.

An emigrant is due for a visit to Dublin from a green-list country. What sort of procedures should he follow?

Passengers arriving from a green list country – holidaymakers, Irish citizens/residents – are no longer required to restrict their movements for 14 days after they arrive.However, the so-called green list – defined as a country that has 25 or fewer cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 – is updated weekly so it’s important to make sure the country he is arriving from is still on Ireland’s green list.

Once in Ireland, your visitor should stay two metres apart from anyone they meet and follow all the hygiene and respiratory etiquette to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Some experts have called for a red list as well as a green list so that authorities could actively follow up on individuals arriving from these countries to ensure that they stay indoors in one location for 14 days.

A group of friends – some Dubs, some not –have a golf overnight planned for late October outside the city (round of golf, food and drinks in the hotel, home the next day). Now, one or two are getting cold feet. What can I do to reassure them that it will all be grand? 

Playing golf is one of the safest outdoor activities – if players stay two metres apart at all times – but friends often let their guard down when having a few drinks together indoors afterwards. “The problem is with the 19th hole – when people go inside to the bar and restaurant in the evening,” says McConkey.

Of course, if you are in a part of Ireland where Level 3 restrictions are in place, you are not permitted to leave your county unless it is for work, education or other essential purposes.