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Cabinet approves plan to ease pandemic restrictions

The intercounty travel ban will be lifted, personal services can reopen and three households will be able to meet outdoors in private gardens.


Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney (Niall Carson/PA)

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney (Niall Carson/PA)

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney (Niall Carson/PA)

The Cabinet has approved a plan to reopen the country and ease out of coronavirus restrictions.

Ministers met on Thursday to sign off on the raft of plans that will pave the way to society and the economy reopening over May and June.

The ban on intercounty travel will be lifted, personal services, including hairdressers, will reopen and the resumption of click-and-collect retail services will begin from May 10.

The number of people permitted to attend religious services will be capped to 50 people.

Museums and galleries will reopen and team sports will also resume.

Three households will also be able to meet outdoors in private gardens, while a vaccinated household can meet with an unvaccinated household indoors.

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Another key date in the calendar is May 17, when non-essential retail will begin to reopen.

Hotels, guest houses and will reopen from June 2.

Outdoor dining is set to reopen on June 7, along with the reopening of gyms and swimming pools.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney earlier said that a staged and incremental reopening of society next month offers Ireland a pathway out of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Health chiefs and political leaders held talks late on Wednesday night to discuss recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

Taoiseach Micheal Martin is to address the nation at 6pm to outline the Government’s long-awaited plan.

Mr Coveney told RTE’s Morning Ireland the reopening is in line with public health advice.

“I think today is one of those moments when hope will start breaking through amongst society in Ireland, that there is a pathway out of this awful pandemic that we’ve been experiencing now for over a year,” he added.

“It’s staged, it’s incremental, it’s consistent with public health advice, but it is very hopeful.

“We can gradually move towards releasing people from the restrictions that they’ve been living within in their families and their businesses, their ability to be able to move around.

“We’re doing so in a way that I think shows that the gathering of pace within our vaccine programme, and the public’s understanding of Covid, and how to protect themselves from it, allow us to be able to move in a more hopeful direction.”

It’s staged, it’s incremental, it’s consistent with public health advice, but it is very hopefulSimon Coveney

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said it was a “day of hope for Ireland”.

“All things going to plan over the course of May, June and July most businesses will reopen,” he told the Dail.

“Hundreds of thousands of people currently on the Pandemic Unemployment Payments will be able to return to work, and we’ll see a lot of our personal freedoms restored.

“In May alone, we could see as many as 15,000 businesses reopen and as many as 200,000 people being offered their jobs back.”

Speaking on his way into the Cabinet meeting, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the planned easing of restrictions, if passed by ministers, would be a “big step in the right direction” and would bring a “lot of much-needed relief” to people across the country.

Mr Donnelly said: “It’s been a tough year and we’ll take our good days and I think for our country this is a good day.”

But he warned that as Nphet continues to advise, “we’ve got to be sensible about it”.

“There are a lot of measures we can embrace but we need to not go beyond those measures,” he said.

“The seven-day rate is continuing to rise. It’s gone up by a quarter in the past week and the number of clusters is still going up and the B117 variant is nearly all new cases.”

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