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What's changing, when? Key dates for April and May as Taoiseach announces a 'cautious' reopening

Here’s the final, confirmed list of what Ministers have decided on.

Three-year-old Riona Hehir  from Beaumout at the opening of Dublin Zoo last June.
Three-year-old Riona Hehir from Beaumout at the opening of Dublin Zoo last June.
Image: Leah Farrell

THIS EVENING, TAOISEACH Micheál Martin announced the Covid-19 restrictions that would be eased over the next few weeks.

For the past three months, Ireland has been under Level 5 restrictions – with all non-essential retail, services like hairdressers, cultural institutions, gyms, pubs and restaurants closed – and severe restrictions on families and friends meeting each other.

The Government’s reopening plan began with the gradual return to school buildings in February, starting with children with special educational needs.

Since then, the Government has been grappling with balancing the public health priority to keep Covid-19 cases as low as possible as the vaccination rollout slowly ramps up, and giving the public a break from severe societal restrictions, particularly as the weather improves and more safe socialising is possible outdoors.

Although we had a good idea of what would be announced – here’s the final, confirmed list of what they decided on.

First: vaccinations

Although there are no measures being lifted from 5 April, there is a new rule that comes into play immediately:

Those who are fully vaccinated can meet with other fully vaccinated people from another household indoors without wearing masks or staying two metres apart.

Fully vaccinated means having two doses of the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccine, and two-week wait after the second dose before you have been innoculated.

On the pace of the vaccine rollout, the Taoiseach said:

  • By the end of next week, close to 1 million doses will have been administered
  • Close to 3 million doses will be administered by the end of May
  • Nearly 5 million doses by early July
  • 6 million doses by the end of July.

12 April

2489 Clontarf Source: Sasko Lazarov

Travel restrictions: There was a previous limit of 5km in place, with exceptions made for work, education or other essential purposes. This will be extended to within your county boundaries, or within 20km of your home, from 12 April.

Outdoor gatherings: Previously, two households could meet up outdoors for exercise. From 12 April, a household will now be allowed to meet up with one other household for socialising – but not in private gardens. 

Construction: Construction has been paused since 8 January, apart from essential health and social housing projects. From 12 April, the construction of homes and childcare facilities will resume. This will involve around 14,000 workers, the Taoiseach said.

Schools: The remaining students who had not yet returned to school buildings will return to classrooms from 12 April.

19 April

Sports and exercise: Individual training had been allowed, along with professional, elite sports and horse and greyhound racing. But no indoor or outdoor exercise group activities are allowed, and no matches or events are taking place. From 19 April, high performance training will be allowed, which includes the return of inter-county senior GAA team training.

26 April

Weddings and funerals: Up to 10 people are currently allowed to attend a funeral – this will be increased to 25. There is no change for the number of people allowed at weddings – it stays at 6 guests who are allowed.

Sports and exercise: Tennis played outdoors and golf can resume as well as outdoor sports training for under 18s.

Attractions: Zoos and wildlife parks will be back open again from this date.

From May

As these measures are expected to last until 4 May, more easing of restrictions will be considered then, including:

Retailers, hairdressers: In May, the phased re-opening of non-essential retail, and personal services such as hairdressers, will be discussed. 

Also to be discussed are all non-contact sports training, religious services, museums, galleries and libraries, and additional freedoms for those who are fully vaccinated.

This will depend on the impact other measures have on Covid-19 cases, and the progress of the vaccine rollout.

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Travel arrivals

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told reporters at a post-announcement briefing that a decision had been made to make it a requirement for people arriving in Ireland to have a second negative or ‘not detected’ Covid-19 PCR test.

For anyone arriving in Ireland, they must have evidence of a negative or not detected PCR test. But it will now be a requirement that all arrivals into Ireland will also need a negative or not detected PCR test on arrival, too.

He said the exact logistics of this requirement need to be worked out.

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