Coronavirus: Travel rules eased in Republic of Ireland and shops reopen

By Shane Harrison
BBC NI Dublin correspondent

People queuing outside Ikea in Dublin as the next phase of Ireland"s Covid-19 lockdown exit beginsImage source, PA Media
Image caption,
People queuing outside Ikea in Dublin on Monday as the next phase of Ireland's Covid-19 lockdown exit began

The Republic of Ireland is beginning the second phase of relaxing its Covid-19 lockdown measures.

All high street shops can now resume their business while enforcing social distancing.

But opening times will be staggered to avoid unnecessary crowds.

Next week, all units in shopping malls will also be open, but people will not be allowed to gather around benches or fountains.

Also from this Monday, libraries can begin a phased reopening as can marts but without spectators.

People will be able to travel up to 20 km from their home or anywhere in their own county - up to now, the restriction was five kilometres.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
All retailers with their own on-street entrances are allowed to resume in-person trade. People queued at IKEA in Dublin earlier on Monday

On 29 June, the travel restriction will be lifted.

On Friday, Taoiseach (prime minister) Leo Varadkar signalled that his caretaker government would fast-track its plans to reopen the country and said its five-stage plan had been reduced to four phases.

He has been leading the country in a caretaker capacity since last February's inconclusive general election while his Fine Gael party, Fianna Fáil and the Greens negotiate a programme for a coalition government.

Those talks are expected to end this week.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
The Republic of Ireland is reopening shops as it eases lockdown restrictions

As part of Monday's relaxation measures, groups of up to six people will be able to meet both indoors and outdoors while observing a two-metre distance.

Up to 25 people will be able to attend a funeral. Prior to this, it had been just 10 people.

Groups of up to 15 people will be able to meet for outdoor sporting activities and playgrounds can reopen.

Some elite athletes will be allowed to return to training but the government's plan is not very specific about this.

Those over 70 and those who are medically vulnerable will be allowed to "have a small number of visitors" in their homes while observing social distancing.

Shops will also offer dedicated hours for them.

People are still being encouraged to work from home if they can and to only use public transport - wearing face masks - if it is necessary to do so.

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Shop opening times will be staggered to avoid unnecessary crowds

Phase three of the relaxation is scheduled for 29 June.

It includes the reopening of hotels, restaurants and bars which serve food and provide table service.

The government is expected to provide more information about this to vintners late this week.

The final phase is set for 20 July when hairdressers who can observe social distancing will also be allowed to reopen.