Coronavirus: Ireland begins first phase of easing lockdown rules

By Shane Harrison
BBC NI Dublin correspondent

  • Published
Flowers in garden centreImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Garden centres and hardware stores can reopen

The Republic of Ireland is beginning the first phase of relaxing its Covid-19 restrictions.

Some construction firms will return to work and garden centres and hardware stores can reopen.

Tom Parlon, the director general of the Construction Industry Federation, estimates that about 30,000 builders - a fifth of the industry's workforce - will return to work.

Social distancing will be observed on site and travelling to and from work.

"Remaining two metres apart will be a big challenge," he said.

"But builders will be using masks and shields to protect themselves."

On top of garden centres and hardware stores, other businesses can also reopen including opticians; motor and bike repair shops; laundries and drycleaners; and electrical, IT and phone outlets.

Schools and college buildings can reopen to allow teachers to organise remote learning, while some outdoor public and tourism amenities, including car parks, beaches and mountain walks, are also able to reopen and farmers markets can be held.

Up to four people who are not from the same household will be allowed to meet outdoors while observing the two metres apart rule, but funerals will still be still restricted to a maximum of 10 people.

Remote working will continue for nearly all those currently doing so.

Citizens are still being advised not to make unnecessary journeys and the 5km from home travel limit continues to apply.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Leo Varadkar said he hopes to be able to announce a move to phase two in three weeks time

Monday will also see the return of golf and tennis, but with very strict rules.

Tom Ryan, from the Elm Park Golf and Sports Club in Dublin, which has been closed since the middle of March, said that "nearly everything that could have been touched beforehand has been removed".

Golf will be restricted to a three ball - in which only three people can play together at once - with each of the players only allowed to handle his or her own ball.

Those playing must book online and provide timesheets to play.

The games are not competitive and over 70s are being discouraged from playing.

The Irish authorities have a five-stage plan to relax the lockdown.

Pub reopening with social distancing is part of the final stage and is due on 10 August.

But authorities have made it clear that if Covid-19 returns in a major way the phased relaxations may not go ahead as planned and could even be reversed.