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Phase Two: When does it start and what restrictions are being eased this time around?

Here’s what you can get up to.

Image: RollingNews.ie

IN THE SECOND week of June, Ireland is scheduled to move on to Phase 2 of the easing of restrictions. 

Leo Varadkar announced last month that the nation is to go through five phases before we get to return to what many people have dubbed the “new normal”.

Dwindling numbers of deaths have been recorded in recent days and the number of reported cases has also dropped below 100.

While Phase One introduced slight easing, allowing for four people to meet up in an outside setting so long as they adhered to social distancing, Phase 2 will allow families to see each other again in their respective homes, but they must stay two metres apart.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) will continue to brief the government about the progression and apparent dissipation of the disease in Ireland. 

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan himself said earlier this month that the virus had been “effectively extinguished” in the community. 

However so far there have been no public indications from senior officials that the process of easing restrictions will be sped up. 

Health Minister Simon Harris yesterday this week that it would become clear later this week whether the slight easing of restrictions had led to more cases of Covid-19 in Ireland.

The State is currently in the middle of the second week of easing its lockdown laws. On 18 May Phase One of the plan saw the reopening of hardware stores, the return of construction and the restarting of some sporting activities.

If cases shoot back up, the NPHET and Government have indicated they may have to reexamine the pace of the re-opening. 

But if all goes well this week and next, Ireland will once again loosen its restrictions. 

The second phase

At the start of the month, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced a five-step plan – which can be read in full here – for lifting the measures put in place by the government to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Under the plan, each phase will last three weeks. The document outlines how each phase impacts different sectors (e.g. education and sport), what will be allowed at each phase, and under what conditions. 

The second phase – to begin on Monday 8 June – will herald a loosening of travel restrictions as well as allowing more retailers to open. 

On Monday Holohan warned that as restrictions ease there might an increase in clusters of Covid-19 but the country will be in a better position to deal with them.

“One of the things that’s going to happen as we ease restrictions and increase the amount of economic activity … we are going to see more clusters of this,” he said.

“I think we’d be much better position to deal with that than we might have been in February had that occurred in that way.”

Can I see my family?

For the first time since lockdown measures were introduced, Irish people will be permitted to visit their family in their respective homes. 

Social distancing must still be adhered to. The advice is to respect the two metre distancing which we have all become accustomed to over the last 10 weeks. 

This advice is not solely for family members. The Phase 2 easing states: “Up to four people may visit another household for a short period of time but everyone must keep at least two metres apart from people they don’t live with.”

You will also now be able to travel up to 20 kilometres away from your home as opposed to the 5 kilometre limit which was in place since 5 May. Unfortunately, if your family is more than 20 kilometres away, you will still be unable to visit them. You will still be allowed travel outside this 20km if you are looking after someone who is cocooning.

Despite these easings of restrictions, the official advice is to stay home and avoid unnecessary journeys if possible.

What to do if cocooning

According to the Roadmap plan, shops will provide dedicated hours for those who are cocooning (people over the age of 70 and those who are medically vulnerable) with strict social distancing and gloves made available. 

Those who are cocooning can have a small number of visitors to their home.

The visitors must wear gloves, face coverings and keep at least two metres away from the person who is cocooning.

Can I go back to work? 

Phase 2 means that anyone who can work safely while maintaining a two-metre distance can go back to work. 

This phase will also see the return of smaller retail outlets. These shops will only be allowed open if the number of staff is low and that the number of people entering the store is controlled. 

bushy park 95 People enjoying Bushy Park, Terenure. Source: Sam Boal

Those who can work from home will continue to do so. 

The retail outlets which are to reopen must develop safeguards for their staff and their prospective customers. They must consider the following:

  • social distancing compliance
  • hygiene and cleaning
  • plans for medically vulnerable or pregnant people
  • extended opening hours to enable social distancing

What else can I do in Phase 2? 

People can take part in outdoor sporting and fitness activities, such as training involving team sports training in small groups. But matches are not allowed.

The training sessions can only be carried out where social distancing can be maintained. 

Libraries can also reopen so long as the numbers of people allowed to enter are limited. Hand sanitising stations must also be installed for people entering and exiting the facility. 

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Horse racing will also return in this phase but there will be no spectators. 

What will remain closed?

Pubs will remain shut until at least Phase 4 which is slated to be on 20 July but some cafés and restaurants will open in phase 3 (June 29).

As things stand, the nation will have to wait until Phase 5 (August 10) for most of life to return to some semblance of normality. 

This is the phase where shopping centres, cinemas, bowling alleys and bingo halls can reopen where numbers can be limited. The same goes for pubs, nightclubs and casinos.

For all this to happen, Ireland must continue to report low levels of infection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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