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'Please do your exercise and then go home': Government advises against picnics as restrictions ease

Today is the first day Phase One, with the scenarios where people can leave their homes loosened slightly.

Elizabeth Canavan in Government Buildings.
Elizabeth Canavan in Government Buildings.
Image: Leon Farrell/RollingNews.ie

THE GOVERNMENT IS urging the public to be “disciplined” during Phase One the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions and advised them “not to stay too long” at public amenities.

Today is the first day Phase One, with the scenarios where people can leave their homes loosened slightly.

People are now allowed to meet friends or family outdoors in groups no bigger than four but the government has specifically asked people not to have a picnic if they are out exercising.

Speaking at a briefing from Government Buildings this morning, assistant secretary at the Department of the Taoiseach Liz Canavan said that people must continue to adhere to social distancing advice. 

“It is permitted to exercise in the outdoors within 5km of your home. It is critical in this that you continue to observe social distancing while exercising.”

Outdoor spaces and tourism sites, including car parks beaches and trails will be opened, where people can move around freely and where social distancing can be maintained. If you’re visiting a public amenity, try not to stay too long at the site or have picnics. Please do your exercise and then go home.

“As we ease restrictions from today. It’s really important that we are disciplined in keeping to the measures specified. Our ability to move through the phases will depend on sticking with it. Indeed, as I said last week, many of these habits will have to become the norm for us for some time,” she added.

As part of today’s changes, sport is permitted in groups of up to four but contact must be minimised and equipment must not be shared.

Sporting bodies such as Tennis Ireland and the Golf Union of Ireland have published protocols for players to follow. Canavan said that an expert group has been established to provide guidance to all sporting bodies on the phased returned to sporting activity. 

“The expert group will assess the consistency of the various protocols being prepared and includes medical experts from the Sport Ireland Institute and the sports sector as well as officials from both the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and Sport Ireland. The group also contains a specific representation for disability sport,” Canavan said.

Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Canavan also reiterated the requirement for people who were availing of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) to cease their claim if they are returning to work. 

The PUP is a €350-per-week payment available to people who have lost their job as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

image006 Source: Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

With more workplaces opening today, Canavan reminded people that that they should cease their PUP claim if they are working again. 

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“A number of those who currently receive the Pandemic Unemployment Payment income support will be looking forward to returning to work. If you are one of these people, you should close your claim today, as you return to work,” Canavan said.

If you’re starting work later in the week. You should close your claim on the day you return to employment, and to close your unemployment claim you can log on to gov.ie.

Canavan said that 585,000 people will this week receive a payment under the PUP scheme, a reduction of 4,000 on last week. The cost of the payments this week is “in the region of €202 million”.

The government also provided an update on the temporary wage subsidy scheme.

The scheme is being run for an initial 12-week period from 26 March and involves the government supporting up to 85% of a worker’s salary to help a company keep them on the payroll during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Canavan said that more the 54,400 employers have signed up to the scheme with over 467,600 employees having so received at least one payment under the scheme.

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Rónán Duffy

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