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Taoiseach confirms 'it is safe' to go ahead with Phase One of re-opening from Monday

The announcement comes after Cabinet met today to discuss advice given by NPHET.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has announced that Phase One of lifting Covid-19 restrictions will begin on Monday. 

Yesterday, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) briefed Cabinet ministers about its advice on what restrictions should be in place from Monday 18 May.

Cabinet met today to discuss the advice given by NPHET. 

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.

He said today: “Today’s announcement gives us reason to hope, but it’s not cause for celebration,” adding there’s a “long way to go”. 

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.

stay at home

Members of the public are also being urged to wear face coverings when on public transport and in enclosed spaces. People coming into Ireland will also have to quarantine for 14 days, the Taoiseach confirmed.

“We have a long way to go and we have to keep our guard up,” Varadkar said. “The next review will take pace on 5 June. We need to keep following these guidelines.

“Our progress depends on all of us doing what we have been doing. As we come into contact with more people the opportunity for the virus to spread increases.

Some mainly in outdoor work will be able to start work again, for example construction work, gardeners and people tending to allotments.
Some more stores will reopen and you will be able to shop again in garden centres, hardware stores, and farmers’ markets, or get your eyes tested or your car, motorbike or bicycle fixed.

“As part of your daily exercise you will be able to play a game of tennis, or a round of golf, exercise and fitness classes outdoors in small groups of up to four people, once you don’t travel beyond 5km to do so.

“Some public amenities such as public beaches and mountain walks will reopen.”

Here is a full list of changes from Monday, where social distancing can be maintained:

  • Construction workers, gardeners and other outdoor workers can return to work
  • The following list of retailers can open: hardware stores, builders merchants and those providing essential supplies and tools for gardening, farming and agriculture; garden centres and farmers markets; Opticians/Optometrists/Outlets providing hearing test services, selling hearing aids and appliances; retailers involved in the sale, supply and repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles and bicycles and related facilities (e.g. tyre sales and repairs); office products and services; electrical, IT and phone sales, repair and maintenance services for home. This does not include homeware stores.
  • Outdoor public amenities and tourism sites, such as carparks, beaches and mountain walks may reopen
  • Outdoor public sports amenities, like playing pitches, tennis courts and golf courses may reopen
  • Outdoor sports and fitness activities in groups of no more than four are permitted within 5km of your home and providing there is no physical contact
  • School and college buildings may reopen for teachers and lecturers to facilitate remote learning

During Phase One, customers are advised to only visit re-opened stores for essential supplies. 

All outlets must implement physical distancing measures.

The Taoiseach added: “In every single case it is vital that we maintain a physical distance of 2 metres.”

He said he hopes to announce that Ireland can progress to Phase Two on Friday 5 June. 

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

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‘Significant challenge’

Speaking at the same briefing, Health Minister Simon Harris said he wanted people to enjoy “simple pleasures in life”, such as visiting a beach, meeting a friend (while socially distanced) or playing a sport.

“We have to remember we do these things accompanied by risk and we have to act accordingly,” he said.

If we get it right, there’s a big prize… But our actions could also set us back. Let’s ensure we don’t risk that. We’ve gone through too much to risk that.

He asked the public to continue to trust the government and said he’d great faith in what the Irish people could achieve in the weeks. He closed by asking people to stay at home, stay safe and hold firm. 

Chief medical officer Tony Holohan said the country has helped drive the infection down.

“It’s now even more important for the personal behaviours that has been adopted by Irish people to keep going,” he added.

The more we move through this phase it will become more important to protect ourselves and our families from this virus.

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Sean Murray

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