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Another 'outdoor summer': Here's when to expect this week's Covid re-opening decisions

There could be more easing in terms of households meeting outdoors and in sports.

Some more easing of restrictions that was originally anticipated could take place.
Some more easing of restrictions that was originally anticipated could take place.

GOVERNMENT WILL THIS week give a detailed statement on what areas of society can open in May and June.

Up for consideration from 4 May is the full reopening of construction, the phased return of non-essential retail commencing with click and collect and outdoor retail, as well as personal services such as hairdressers. 

The reopening of museums, galleries and libraries, as well as the recommencement of religious services will also be considered. 

Higher Education Minister Simon Harris said last week that there could be “the potential for more” easing of restrictions in May than what has already been indicated.

He said it may be possible to “go further” with some outdoor activities if numbers stay as they are.

It is understood that this could take the form of advice being given that more households can meet up outside. 

It is understood that more outdoor sport could also be permitted. 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that while the government will be moving cautiously, there is more room for a wider reopening due to the progress made in suppressing the virus.

Speaking to RTÉ yesterday, he said that while there are more considerations being made for non-essential retail and personal services, the government wants to ensure that anything that is opened remains open in the long term.

“Anything we open now, we want to keep open. We want to end this stop, start, close… We’ve got to do this in a proper way,” said Martin.

According to Martin, announcements expected this week will also detail some reopening beyond May and into June. In particular, Martin mentioned hotels, B&B’s and guest houses for reopening after May.

“We will give an announcement next week in respect of May, some indications in respect of June as I have already in terms of hotels, B&B’s and guest houses, and we will take advice as well and we will weigh it up.”

When asked if outdoor dining might be on the cards in May, to bring the Republic somewhat in line with what is happening north of the border, one minister who spoke to The Journal said “if we can do in May what we indicated, we’ll be doing a lot”. 

Week of meetings 

Cabinet will meet twice this week – on Tuesday and Thursday. Ministers will discuss and sign off on a plan for the reopening of society over the next two months at the Thursday meeting, with official announcements expected to follow that evening. 

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) are likely to meet on Wednesday to put together their advice, before giving it to government. 

The Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19, which is made up of the three coalition party leaders and a number of other senior ministers, are expected to meet on Wednesday evening to discuss the latest public health advice. 

Ireland’s National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) will also be providing a recommendation on the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week.

It is understood that ministers are anxious to proceed with the reopening with some momentum over the next eight weeks, with the possibility of some sectors seeing accelerated reopening schedules. 

However, senior sources noted that there is some resistance from public health officials, who want to remain cautious.

Ministers who spoke to The Journal in recent days said the main priority of the strict lockdown had been to reduce the pressure on hospitals, and reduce mortality rates.

Hospitals are now seeing their lowest Covid figures in nearly six months, while the numbers in ICU remain stable. Infection rates in healthcare workers and nursing homes have dropped significantly since the start of the vaccination programme rollout.

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One senior political source said that the public has taken this on board and to some extent is already moving ahead of the official advice.

From today a number of other restrictions are also being eased. 

Outdoor sports facilities such as golf courses and tennis courts can reopen. Outdoor visitor attractions such as zoos, pet farms, and heritage sites will also reopen their doors after months of closure.

Underage non-contact outdoor training in pods of 15 can recommence for all exercise activities that can be delivered outdoors including dance classes. 

The numbers attending funerals can also increase to 25 from today.

- With reporting by Tadgh McNally 

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