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Taoiseach: Over 70s can leave homes from Tuesday, but most restrictions in place until 18 May

The announcement was made by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar this evening.

Image: Leon Farrell/RollingNews.ie

MEASURES IN PLACE to restrict the public’s movement and mitigate the spread of Covid-19 are to continue for several more weeks. 

The announcement was made by the Taoiseach at Government Buildings in his latest address to the nation this evening, when it emerged that restrictions would be lifted on a phased basis between now and the end of the summer.

Two more weeks of tight restrictions will remain in place until 18 May, although there will be some changes before that date.

“We need two more weeks of tight restrictions to weaken the virus further so it doesn’t make a comeback,” Leo Varadkar said.

The country will be opened under a phased plan, with each phase coming into effect every three weeks. The final phase will commence on 10 August.

The 2km exercise distance will be expanded to 5km from Tuesday, while it will be possible for people to drive 5km from their place of residence. Over 70s will also be allowed to leave their homes to exercise and drive up to 5km away, also from Tuesday. 

From 18 May, outdoor work like construction and landscaping will be allowed to resume.

Some retail outlets like garden centres, hardware stores and repair shops will be allowed to re-open and some outdoor sporting and fitness activities in small groups will be allowed.

Many regular health services will resume, and the Taoiseach indicated the possibility of allowing small groups of friends and family to meet outdoors.

“Not long from now, some summer night, we will see our friends again,” he said.

In later phases, other workplaces such as businesses, childcare facilities, preschools, restaurants, cafes, bars, cinemas and gyms will be allowed to reopen.

Schools and colleges will reopen in the new academic year, although it is understood that plans for the Leaving Certificate to be held from late July are still in place.

However, Varadkar also said that there is a risk of the virus re-surging as restrictions are lifted.

He said that the country may have to go back a phase if that happens at any time, until a vaccine or other effective treatment is developed.

He also said a long-term need for physical distancing and good hand hygiene would continue, as well as for people to stay at home and isolate if they become sick.

“It will take some time for our lives to get back to normal to a new normal,” Varadkar said. “But it will happen.”

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The Taoiseach also acknowledged the difficulty faced by people across the country in the weeks that restrictions have already been in place.

“Thanks to you, we are making a real difference in the fight against Covid-19,” he said.

“The curve has been flattened, and has now plateaued. Thousands of lives have been saved. Our hospitals and healthcare staff have not been overwhelmed.

“We have not yet won this, and every day we’ve too many in new cases. We still have too many people in hospital, and in our intensive care units with Covid. And every day, regrettably, including today, we have too many deaths.”

The Cabinet is set to meet again tomorrow to agree further actions to help businesses affected by the pandemic.

A national protocol has also been developed by the government, employers and trade unions with the assistance of the Health and Safety Authority and the HSE to enable a gradual restart of economic activity as restrictions are eased.

Earlier today, the Department of Health confirmed another 34 people had died after being diagnosed with Covid-19. The death toll in Ireland related to the virus is now 1,265. 

There have been over 20,000 confirmed cases. Of those cases that have been analysed, 13% of patients have been hospitalised with 367 people admitted to ICU.  

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