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Workers 'unlikely to return to offices until September' says Tánaiste

Offices have been largely closed under public health advice since the onset of the pandemic.

Image: TOM HONAN

WORKERS IN IRELAND are unlikely to return to offices until September, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said as the government outlined plans to reopen society throughout May and June. 

Offices have been largely closed under public health advice since the onset of the pandemic with hundreds of thousands of people across the country adapting to remote working. 

The advice on working from home remains the same for now, the Tánaiste said this evening, and that people are asked to only attend offices if it’s “absolutely necessary”.

“It’s unlikely that we’ll see a return to the office until September,” said Varadkar, adding that it would be dependent on achieving a critical mass of vaccination. 

The headline measures in the government’s new plan announced today had been well-flagged, with significant easing of lockdown measures to begin next month.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the government was in a position to ease restrictions now because of the public’s adherence to the restrictions over the past few months.

“Because of your hard work and sacrifices, we are in a better place,” he said. 

“As disruptive as lonely as frustrating as the last year has been we are getting through it and a degree of normality is returning,” the Taoiseach said. 

Meetings with friends and family are returning, he added. “Hope is returning.”

The first key date will be 10 May, when inter-county travel will be permitted again. 

On the same date, hairdressers, barbers and salons will be permitted to re-open again by appointment. 

Click and collect shopping may also resume from 10 May. Three households will also be able to meet outside from the same date.

Up to 50 people will be permitted to attend religious services, which include weddings and funerals as well as masses from 10 May, also. Indoor wedding parties, however, will be capped at six guests and 15 guests for outdoor parties. Galleries and museums can re-open, as can libraries.

Three vaccinated households will also be permitted to meet indoors. As well as that, one vaccinated household will be advised they can meet a non-vaccinated household indoors. 

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The next big re-opening date will be 17 May, when non-essential retail stores will be permitted to re-open again.

From 2 June, hotels and B&Bs will be permitted to open again. 

Pubs and restaurants will be permitted to re-open for outdoor dining and drinking on 7 June. The €9 substantial meal requirement has been scrapped. The re-opening of indoor hospitality venues is not expected until July at the earliest.

The re-opening of gyms and swimming pools is also expected from 7 June. The number of guests attending wedding receptions can increase to 25 on that date. And indoor visits in private homes from another household can also begin again.

Also, from 4 May, all construction will be resuming. 

The Taoiseach said these measures would see thousands return to work in the coming months. He said that the government will also continue to do everything it can to support businesses emerging from the pandemic and meet the costs of re-opening.

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