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Some Covid-19 restrictions change from today.
Some Covid-19 restrictions change from today.
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Phase One: Here's what's allowed from today as Covid-19 restrictions eased

Hardware stores, garden centres and golf are all a possibility now.
May 18th 2020, 12:06 AM 143,226 68

TODAY IS THE day when Covid-19 measures will loosen slightly, offering a touch more freedom to people across the country after weeks of heavy restrictions. 

So what changes today as we embark on Phase One? Health officials are keen to stress that the modifications are not a licence to return to normal but instead an incremental evolution of Ireland’s approach to the virus after days of new cases and hospitalisations dropping. 

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.

It’s that final change that could lead the most significant changes for many. People can now play a game of tennis or a round or golf or even take part in outdoor exercise classes, provided it’s only with four people and it’s within 5km if your home. 

Public beaches and mountain walks will reopen too. 

There’s good news for cocooners too. On Friday evening, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said that it would be appropriate for people in cocooning categories to meet small socially-distanced groups outdoors.

Who’s back to work?

Today 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 some categories of 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 of the government’s roadmap to reopening plan. 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 during phase one. 

Retail

In terms of retail, people will also have more options. On Friday, health minister Simon Harris joked that never before in the history of Ireland has the country been so excited to go to a garden centre. 

Alongside garden centres, hardware stores – although not homeware shops – will reopen.

Farmers’ markets can also re-open, as well as businesses that are involved in the “sale, supply and repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles and bicycles”. 

Other retailers include: 

  • opticians and optometrists, outlets providing hearing test services, selling hearing aids and appliances
  • 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

Exercise

Parks, beaches, mountain walks, heritage and cultural sites will also reopen today, 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.

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

Masks

It isn’t strictly connected to the loosening of restrictions, but people will also now be encouraged to wear masks in public places such as public transport and supermarkets. 

It’s not mandatory, but Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Friday said that members of the public should wear “face coverings when using busy public transport or in enclosed indoor public areas such as retail outlets”. 

However, Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan stressed that this is not a “silver bullet” to prevent spread of the virus, adding that it is simply another measure to compliment existing measures such as hand hygiene. 

All going to plan, the next phase of Ireland’s coronavirus reopening will commence on 8 June. 

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Dominic McGrath

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