Coronavirus: Ireland to reopen shops and other sectors next week

By Shane Harrison
BBC NI Dublin correspondent

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image captionThe Republic of Ireland has been in a lockdown broadly similar to that of the spring except that schools remained opened and construction continued

The Republic of Ireland's cabinet has agreed to reopen all retail outlets, hairdressers, museums and libraries from Tuesday of next week.

Ireland has been in lockdown for nearly six weeks, with rules similar to those in spring, except schools stayed open and construction continued.

From 1 December, people will also be able to attend religious services and play golf and tennis again.

They will not be allowed to leave their county except for essential reasons.

That would include work, education or a medical appointment.

On Friday next week - 4 December - restaurants and pubs that have a kitchen and serve food will reopen.

However, pubs that do not serve food will remain closed except for delivery or take-away services.

From Friday, 18 December until 6 January people will be allowed to travel to visit family and friends, but only three households can gather.

It is understood the government will revist the issue of travel to Northern Ireland closer to 18 December.

It had been reported that Tánaiste (Irish deputy PM) Leo Varadkar had advised against cross-border travel to Northern Ireland at Christmas.

However, Mr Varadkar clarified on Thursday that there was "no question of there being an outright travel ban between north and south".

The three-party coalition government is continuing to advise people to wear masks in crowded outdoor areas during the festive season.

New rules are also expected on the distance between tables in premises and a reduction in the amount of time people can stay there.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionTaoiseach (Irish PM) Micheál Martin is expected to make a national TV address about the changes

It follows a five-hour meeting on Thursday night of the Covid-19 cabinet sub-committee.

Ministers made their decisions despite advice from public health officials that they should choose between either opening restaurants and pubs that serve food and allowing household visits.

It is understood that the cabinet, which had access to its own research, believes its proposals take on board some of those concerns while allowing people to have "a meaningful Christmas".

Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Micheál Martin is expected to make a national address during the RTÉ TV evening news.

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