#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 10°C Friday 16 April 2021

Phase One explained: Who's going back to work and what other restrictions have changed?

Hardware stores, garden centres, farmers’ markets, bicycle shops and garages are due to open Monday.

Image: Niall Carson/PA

MONDAY WILL SEE the easing of some Covid-19 restrictions as part of the staggered re-opening of the country, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed this evening.

At the start of the month, 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. Guidelines set out in the document for Phase One remain largely unchanged, with only a few minor tweaks. 

There are five scenarios whereby people can or should leave their home, from Monday.

They are to go to work if your workplace has been told it can open under the current rules and in circumstances where you can’t do your job from home, to go to the shops for items you need, to exercise within five kilometres, for medical reasons or to care for others and to meet friends or family outdoors in groups no bigger than four.

Up to four people who do not live in the same household will be allowed to meet up outdoors from Monday, as long as they maintain a two-metre distance.

Those who are cocooning should continue to follow the public health advice to stay at home as much as possible and avoid physical contact with other people, except to leave home for exercise or a drive up to 5 km.

However, Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan says it would be appropriate for people in cocooning categories to meet small socially-distanced groups of four outdoors from Monday. 

Members of the public are also being urged to wear face coverings when on public transport and in enclosed spaces.

Varadkar stressed this evening that “everything is provisional and reversible, and our progress depends on us all continuing to do what we have been doing”.

Who is back to work?

Monday will see the phased return of some non-essential retailers and outdoor workers. That means employees working in these shops and people like construction workers and gardeners will return to work.

In each case, social distancing requirements will continue to apply.

The return of construction work does not include indoor construction, meaning home renovations will have to wait.

The government has advised all employers to apply the Return to Work Safely Protocol,  designed to support employers and workers to put measures in place that will prevent the spread of the virus. Employers should also have a Covid-19 Response Plan in place.

People who are in are position to work remotely should continue to do so.

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

It had been planned that a childcare scheme would start for healthcare workers during Phase One but that was scrapped after just six providers signed up.

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

Current restrictions on attendance at funerals to a maximum of 10 people should also be continued. 

Where is reopening? 

Larger shops and outlets that are primarily outdoor can reopen on Monday, this includes garden centres, hardware and DIY stores, and farmers markets. 

Other retailers include: 

  • opticians and optometrists, outlets providing hearing test services, selling hearing aids and appliances
  • car dealerships and retailers involved in the sale, supply and repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles and bicycle repair and related facilities
  • hardware stores, builders’ merchants and stores that provide hardware products necessary for home and business maintenance, sanitation and farm equipment, supplies and tools essential for gardening/farming/agriculture
  • retail sale of office products and services for individuals working from home and for businesses
  • retailers providing electrical, IT and phone sales, repair and maintenance services for home and businesses

Homeware stores are not among the retailers allowed to open.  

The likes of restaurants and cafés that don’t offer takeaway services will still be closed until at least phase three, which will begin in July if things go to plan. Pubs are currently slated to open on 10 August.

Due to social distancing rules, restaurants and pubs will have to significantly modify their premises to ensure adequate space for social distancing.

Marts and small non-essential retail outlets with small numbers of staff will likewise remain closed until the second phase. 


Parks, beaches, mountain walks, heritage and cultural sites will also reopen after the weekend, along with outdoor sports facilities such as pitches, tennis courts and golf courses.

Even though these amenities are reopening, people are advised not to travel beyond 5 kilometres from where they live to visit any of the facilities.

If you are doing any sport or fitnesses activities, they are permitted in groups of up to four people. But social distancing must be practised, contact minimised, equipment must not be shared.

Tennis Ireland has said that coaches can train a maximum of 3 players from the same household on one court at any one time. 

Coaches can also work with two players who are not from the same household on one court but only when players are at opposite sides of the net to each other. 

The Golf Union of Ireland’s protocol for players outlines that club members only can return to the course from 18 May with a maximum of groups of three spread out over fourteen-minute intervals.

Courses will also be limited to half of their usual capacity with a maximum of 60 players on the course at any one time. 

#Open journalism No news is bad news Support The Journal

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support us now

Current public health advice does not recommend that over 70s playing golf or tennis 

Horse racing is to return under ‘strict protocols’ and behind closed doors on the earlier date of 8 June. Racing was initially scheduled to return in phase three of the government’s guidelines on 29 June. 

Looking ahead

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. 

It is important to remember that the beginning of each phase will be kept under constant review and there is a chance that restrictions that have previously been lifted could be re-imposed.  

In order for the country to move into phase two as planned on 8 June, the five “trigger criteria”  laid out in the government’s roadmap must be met.

Decision-making on these transitions will be based on:

  1. The latest data regarding the progression of the disease
  2. The capacity and resilience of the health service in terms of hospital and ICU occupancy
  3. The capacity of the programme of sampling, testing and contact tracing
  4. The ability to shield and care for at risk groups
  5. An assessment of the risk of secondary morbidity and mortality as a consequence of the restrictions.

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

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

It’s also notable that phases can kick in at different times. For instance, the ‘middle phase’ for education might start earlier than the same ‘middle phase’ for retail services.

“This depends on the progress we make between now and then,” Varadkar said. “Nothing is guaranteed.”

The only thing that is inevitable is the spread of the virus unless we push it back every day. 

About the author:

Adam Daly

Read next:


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel