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Dublin: 16 °C Sunday 31 May, 2020
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Key dates: Here's the plan for unwinding restrictions and getting life in Ireland back to normal

The plan was announced by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar this evening.

St Stephen's Green, Dublin.
St Stephen's Green, Dublin.
Image: RollingNews.ie

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has laid out a roadmap for a phased lifting of Covid-19 restrictions in Ireland this evening.

This plan – which can be read in full here – lays out the staggered approach to lifting certain measures put in place by the government to slow down the spread of Covid-19. 

It must be noted that the plan is tentative and will be kept under constant review. There is an ongoing possibility that restrictions could be re-imposed. 

The document setting out the plan noted that, across the different categories, phases might kick in at different times – for instance, a ‘middle phase’ education measure might start earlier than a social/recreational measure from the same ‘middle phase’.

This evening, Varadkar confirmed that current restrictions are to remain in place until 18 May. However, over 70s will now be allowed to leave their homes to exercise or drive within a 5km radius.

Tuesday, 5 May

From Tuesday, people will be allowed to travel up to 5km for the purposes of exercise. 

“From Tuesday, it will be possible to go for a walk or a drive within five kilometres from your home if you avoid all contact with other people,” Varadkar said. 

Phased reopening

Starting on 18 May, the country will begin to re-open in five stages, three weeks apart. 

Varadkar said that “all things going to plan”, the fifth stage will commence on 10 August. 

Based on the three-week review process, the current phases would commence on the following dates: 

  • Phase one – 18 May
  • Phase two – 8 June
  • Phase three – 29 June
  • Phase four – 20 July
  • Phase five – 10 August

Phase one – 18 May

With regard to community health measures, the document advises that during phase one people should continue to avoid unnecessary journeys. 

Other guidance includes: 

  • Up to four people not of the same household may meet outdoors while maintaining strict social distancing. 
  • People should continue to avoid non-essential social visiting. 
  • Current restrictions on attendance at funerals to a maximum of 10 people should be continued. 

In terms of education and childcare measures, schools and college buildings may open for access by teachers for organisation and distribution of remote learning.

Looking at economic activity, the following is being advised on a risk-based approach: 

  • A phased return of outdoor workers will be permitted (ie. construction workers and gardeners). Social distancing will be required. 
  • People who are in are position to work remotely will continue to do so.

Guidance for retail services is as follows: 

  • Open retail outlets that are primarily outdoor (eg. garden centres and hardware stores)
  • Open retail outlets that were open in Tier 2 (ie, homeware, opticians, motor and bicycle repair)
  • Retailers will be asked to develop a plan for safe operation and protection of staff and consumers. 

In terms of social and cultural measures, some outdoor public amenities and tourism sites will reopen where people are non-stationary and social distancing can be applied. 

  • Outdoor public sports amenities will be open where social distancing can be maintained. 
  • People will be permitted to engage in outdoor sporting or fitness activities in groups of up to four, where social distancing can be maintained. 

Looking at health and social care services, there will be an increased delivery of non-Covid-19 care and services across phases one and two. A further breakdown of this can be found in the document

Phase two – 8 June

With regard to community health measures, the document advises that during phase two the restriction on movement from a person’s home will be increased to 20km but unnecessary journeys should still be avoided.

Other guidance includes: 

  • Visits to homes of over 70s and medically vulnerable by no more than a small number of people for a short period of time. People will have to wear gloves, face coverings and maintain social distancing. 
  • Up to four people may visit another household for a short period while maintaining strict social distancing. 
  • Slightly larger groups of people will be allowed to attend funerals. 

Looking at economic activity, workers who can maintain working from home should continue to do so. Organisations will be asked to develop plans for a return to onsite working by employees in light of Covid-19. 

Some of the plans for retail services include: 

  • Small retail outlets can reopen with small numbers of staff on the basis that the retailer can control the number of individuals that staff and customers interact with at any given time. 
  • Marts can reopen where social distancing can be maintained. 

In terms of cultural and social measures, public libraries with limited numbers can reopen. 

People will be permitted to engage in outdoor sporting and fitness activities, involving small group team sports training (but no matches), where social distancing can be maintained. 

Phase three – 29 June

With regard to community health measures, the document advises that during phase three people should maintain restriction to within 20km of their home and to continue to avoid unnecessary journeys. 

In terms of education and childcare measures, creches, childminders and pre-schools for children of essential workers will reopen in a phased manner with social distancing and other requirements applying. 

Looking at economic activity, the following restrictions will apply: 

  • Organisations where employees have low levels of daily interaction with people and where social distancing can be maintained will reopen. 
  • Workers who can work from home should continue to do so. 

Some of the plans for culture and social measures include: 

  • The reopening of playgrounds where social distancing and hygiene can be maintained. 
  • ‘Behind closed doors’ sporting events where social distancing can be maintained. 
  • The reopening of cafés and restaurants providing on-premises food and drinks where social distancing can be maintained. 

Moving onto retail services, there will be a phase-in opening of all other non-essential retail outlets. This is to be limited to retail outlets with street-level entrances which are not in enclosed shopping centres. 

In terms of health and social care, there will be a commencement of a phased approach to visiting hospitals, residential healthcare centres, other residential settings and prisons, etc. 

Phase four – 20 July

With regard to community health measures, the document advises that during phase four travel can be extended to outside a person’s region. 

  • Slightly larger numbers of people may visit another household for a short period of time while socially distancing. 
  • Small social gatherings by family and close friends, such as small weddings and baptisms may be allowed. 

Looking at education and childcare measures, creches, childminders and pre-schools will reopen for children of all other workers on a gradually increasing phased basis. 

With regard to economic activity, organisations where employees cannot work remotely will be considered first for return to onsite working arrangements. 

Retail services will see the commencement of loosening of restrictions on higher risk services such as hairdressers and barbers. 

Some of the plans for culture and social measures include: 

  • Reopening of museums, galleries and other cultural outlets. 
  • Reopening of religious places and places of worship. 
  • Sports team leagues will be permitted but only where limitations are placed on the number of spectators and where social distancing can be maintained. 
  • Reopening of public swimming pools. 
  • Reopening of hotels, hostels, caravan parks and holiday parks for social and tourist activities, initially on a limited occupancy basis. 

Phase five – 10 August 

With regard to community health measures, the document advises that during phase five large social gatherings will be restricted due to risk. 

There will be a continued restriction on all household contact of suspect cases. 

Looking at education and childcare measures, schools and universities will reopen in September and October. 

In terms of health and social care, there will be a return to normal visiting for hospitals, residential healthcare centres, other residential settings and prisons, etc. 

Economic activity will see a phased return to onsite working. 

Some of the plans for retail services include: 

  • Reopening of enclosed shopping centres where social distancing can be maintained. 
  • Further loosening of restrictions on services involving direct physical contact for periods of time between people, such as tattoo and piercing services. 

And, finally, here are some of the plans for culture and social measures: 

  • Reopening of pubs, bars, nightclubs and casinos where social distancing can be maintained. 
  • Reopening theatres and cinemas where social distancing can be maintained
  • Permitting close physical contact sports
  • Reopening of gyms, dance studios and sports clubs, only where regular and effective cleaning can be carried out and social distancing can be maintained. 
  • Reopening of indoor venues such as bowling alleys and bingo halls. 
  • Festivals, events and other social and cultural mass gatherings only in accordance with both indoor and outdoor numbers. 

Decision-making

It must again be noted that there is an ongoing possibility that restrictions could be re-imposed. 

Before each government consideration of the easing of restrictions, the Department of Health will provide a report regarding the latest data available. 

It will also provide risk-based public health advice on what measures could be modified in the next period. 

The government would then consider what restrictions could be lifted, having regard to the advice of the Department of Health, as well as other social and economic considerations. 

This process will be carried out on an ongoing basis once every three weeks. 

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