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The next phase: Here's what's allowed from today as Phase Two of the 'accelerated' roadmap kicks in

There are now four phases of easing Covid-19 restrictions, rather than five.

coronavirus-sun-jun-7-2020 Customers queuing for a shop on Grafton street in Dublin on Sunday. Source: PA

TODAY IS THE day that Ireland will commence what the Taoiseach has described as ‘Phase Two Plus’ of its roadmap to ease Covid-19 restrictions.

At the start of May, Varadkar announced a five-step plan for lifting the measures put in place by the government to slow the spread of Covid-19.

That five-step plan has been condensed down to four and a number of measures have been brought forward after the government announced the acceleration of the previous roadmap on Friday. 

The government advice to the public has changed from “stay home” to “stay local”.

Health officials have stressed that the modifications are not a licence to return to normal but instead, incremental evolution of the country’s approach to the virus as new cases and hospitalisations continue dropping. 

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said as Ireland progresses through the road map’s phases more focus will shift to individual responsibility to comply with relaxations.

“If people want to find loopholes in it and ways of doing things or just simply ignore it it’s difficult for us to stop,” he said.

“The majority of people are with us and want to stay with us for their own protection and for the protection of their families and for the protection of the community.

Yesterday evening, the National Public Health Emergency Team confirmed one further death and 25 new cases of coronavirus in Ireland. 

So what changes today as we embark on Phase Two of Four? 

Have permission, will travel 

First off, public health advice is still for people to avoid unnecessary journeys and to continue to work from home if possible. 

As part of the accelerated roadmap, people will be permitted to travel anywhere within their own county, or up to 20km from home, whichever is greater from today. 

The government is stressing that, while restrictions on travel and on many activities have been eased, people should “stay local”. 

In terms of social visits, up to six people from different households can now meet up both indoors and outdoors for a short period while maintaining strict social distancing. 

Social visits also apply to the over 70s and medically vulnerable who can welcome a small number of people to their home. People are advised to wear face coverings and gloves during these visits. 

There is to be a phased reintroduction of visiting at nursing homes, starting on 15 June in homes that put in place required protocols.

Additionally, up to 25 immediate family and close friends can attend funeral services for loved ones from today. A maximum of 10 people were permitted to attend a funeral since mid-March.

Where is open? 

Most shops will be able to open their doors today, while shopping centres will open at the later date of 15 June.

There will be dedicated hours for those who are over 70 or in an at-risk group.

All businesses that are reopening will have to comply with the government’s mandatory return-to-work health and safety protocols and ensure strict adherence to social distancing rules. 

Shop opening times will be staggered to relieve pressure on public transport which people should only use if they absolutely need to as capacity is limited because of social distancing requirements. Walk or cycle if you can. 

The National Transport Authority says services on public transport in line with the pre-Covid “Monday to Friday” schedule will be in place for buses and Dart services from today, however, social distancing requirements will mean that overall capacity on these services will be restricted to 20% of pre-Covid levels. 

Buses – including Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann – will also revert to pre-Covid schedules at weekends. However, Dart schedules on Saturdays and Sundays will continue to operate at reduced levels.

It is still recommended that face coverings be worn on public transport and in public places, such as shops.  

In terms of cultural and social measures, public libraries with limited numbers can now reopen. 

Some good news for kids, the country’s playgrounds are due to reopen today, NPHET said Friday that they should be “supervised and regularly cleaned by local authorities”. 

Dublin City Council said it won’t be reopening its playgrounds as they are not supervised, however, its deputy chief executive Brendan Kenny said over the weekend that he would be working with the government to find a way to open them at some point in Phase Two.

Outdoor summer camps are also now allowed to operate for secondary school children – once there are no more than 15 people involved. 

“Importantly, primary school-age children are still attending primary school until the end of Phase 2 and therefore it would not be appropriate for them to attend summer camps,” NPHET noted in their advice to government. 

In terms of sport, groups of up to 15 people, including trainers and coaches, can return to non-contact outdoor training activity (but not matches) while maintaining social distancing at all times. High-performance athletes and their support staff are permitted to resume training at specific locations. 

Greyhound racing and horse racing is to resume behind doors today. The Irish Greyhound Board confirmed they have arranged a schedule of trials to commence at all 14 greyhound tracks.

Today will so see the phased return of some services for drivers, with 15 National Car Testing service centres reopening.

These include Little Island and Blarney in Cork; and Northpoint 1 & 2, Deansgrange, and Fonthill in Dublin.

The other centres open from today are Galway, Limerick, Waterford, Letterkenny, Athlone, Ballina, Naas, Drogheda, and Derrybeg.

The phased reopening of the National Driver Licence Service will also begin today – with the reopening of 20 centres initially.

These are: Carlow, Cavan, Citywest, Clarehall, Cork, Drogheda, Ennis, Galway, Kilkenny, Leopardstown, Letterkenny, Limerick, Longford, Monaghan, Naas, Roscommon, Santry, Trim, Waterford, and Wicklow. The rest will reopen later in June. 

The Driver Theory Test will also resume today, with the opening of all 43 centres around the country.

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What will remain closed?

As things stand,  pubs will remain closed for Phase Two but will be able to reopen on 29 June once they serve food. For pubs to open on this date, they must operate a table service and adhere to social distancing rules.

All other pubs can reopen on 20 July – three weeks earlier than originally planned.

The National Public Health Emergency Team is to develop guidance for the hospitality sector ahead of 29 June.

Barbers, hairdressers, and nail salons will also remain shut until 20 July as their work involves “almost face-to-face contact” which makes it a “high-risk engagement”.

Phase three is scheduled for 29 June, when hotels and other parts of the domestic tourism sector can reopen.

Varadkar said he hoped to see hotels, restaurants, hostels, caravan parks, galleries and museums will reopen by the end of the month. It is anticipated that places of worship will also be able to reopen from this point.

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

The daily Department of Health briefings, which have become daily viewing for many, will move from five days a week to two days - every Monday and Thursday.

The drop to two briefings a week signals that the country is making progress against the virus, however, in its advice to the government, NPHET said it was mindful that stricter measures will have to be reintroduced if there is a strong upsurge of infection.

About the author:

Adam Daly

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