Coronavirus: Irish roadmap out of lockdown accelerated

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image copyrightCharles McQuillan
image captionThere has been an easing of lockdown restrictions in the Republic of Ireland

Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar has announced that plans to ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions in Ireland are being accelerated and will move to 'Phase 2 Plus' on Monday.

He also said the roadmap was now made up of four phases for reopening the country instead of five.

Phase 3 will start on 29 June and Phase 4 on 20 July.

The taoiseach said some measures on mass gatherings may need to remain in place until August.

It comes as the Irish Department of Health revealed there have been seven more coronavirus-related deaths there.

It brings the total number of deaths in the Republic of Ireland to 1,670.

Change of pace

On Friday the Irish cabinet agreed to ease more lockdown restrictions quicker than previously set out - with all travel restrictions now set to be lifted by the end of June.

Mr Varadkar said this acceleration of the process had "been made possible by the considerable sacrifices that you have made to restrict the spread of the virus and protect others".

The cabinet agreed to implement all elements of phase two and bring forward actions in the remaining phases.

The Irish cabinet also agreed that the hospitality sector, including hotels and B&Bs, will reopen from the beginning of July.

What happens from Monday?

Under 'Phase 2 Plus' People in the Republic of Ireland will be able travel anywhere inside their own county from Monday - rather than be limited to just 20km from home.

If they live in a border area they will also be able to travel up to 20km into another county.

  • Groups of up to six people can meet indoors or outdoors if they keep two metres apart
  • Groups of up to 15 people can meet for outdoor sporting activities
  • Up to 25 people can attend funerals and public libraries can open
  • Shopping centres can reopen from 15 June, but there will be no congregating on food courts, and social distancing will have to be observed.

Under phase two of the road map for reopening the economy, those who are cocooning - people older than 70 and those who are medically vulnerable - can have a small number of visitors to their home.

However, visitors would have to wear gloves, face coverings and keep at least two metres away from the person who is cocooning.

Small retail outlets can reopen with a small number of staff as long as the retailer can control the number of individuals that staff and customers interact with at any one time.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionThe taoiseach said "the safety of the people shall be our highest law"

Phase 3

This will come into effect on 29 June with parts of Phase 4 brought forward.

  • Drinking and eating: Bars (with or without restaurant licences, as long as they serve food) and restaurants will reopen alongside hotels
  • Health Minister Simon Harris says there will be a "clear timeline" on resumption of screening programmes expected by the end of June
  • Travel: All restrictions for travelling within Ireland will be lifted. There is no date set yet for people to be allowed to travel abroad again
  • Hair salons/barbers: At present, they remain in the Phase 4 stage (20 July)
  • Weddings: There is no decision yet as to if they can be held in Phase 3 or 4 and the numbers that will be allowed to attend
  • Religious services: Places of worship will be allowed to open again at the beginning of Phase 3, with physical distancing measures in place.

Bodies representing the retail and hospitality sectors in Northern Ireland are now calling on Stormont to also bring forward planned reopening dates.

In a joint statement, Colin Neill from Hospitality Ulster and Belfast Chamber chief executive Simon Hamilton said: "With the government in the Republic announcing it is bringing forward its dates for when retail and hospitality can reopen, the Northern Ireland Executive urgently needs to follow suit."

It continues: "It is ridiculous that in a few weeks' time you'll be able to eat a meal in a pub or buy a pair of shoes in Ballina but not in Belfast. We are demanding that Stormont don't let our retail and hospitality sectors fall behind."

Hotels in Northern Ireland are set to reopen on 20 July, while only some large retailers, including shops in retail parks, reopen on 8 June.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that travel for people from the Republic of Ireland to countries where Covid-19 has been successfully suppressed will return in a number of weeks.

Minister for Business Heather Humphreys told RTÉ that the Irish government plans to reintroduce air travel through "air bridges", which will allow travel to countries where the curve has been "flattened" to the same degree as it has in the Republic.

Ms Humphreys said she would not encourage people to book holidays yet, but she said plans are in place and will be activated as soon as it is safe to do so.

The Republic of Ireland began the first phase of relaxing its Covid-19 restrictions last month.

Some construction firms returned to work and garden centres and hardware stores reopened.

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