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‘Day of hope’ as Ireland moves into phase two of easing lockdown

Retail shops are set to re-open after ten weeks.

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The Brown Thomas window display on Grafton street in Dublin as businesses prepare to reopen (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Brown Thomas window display on Grafton street in Dublin as businesses prepare to reopen (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Brown Thomas window display on Grafton street in Dublin as businesses prepare to reopen (Brian Lawless/PA)

Ireland is marking “a day of hope” as retail shops reopen following a ten-week shut-down and a series of restrictions are lifted on Monday.

More people will be able to return to work, including all those who work on their own or whose work can be done safely while staying two metres apart from others.

All retail stores may reopen on Monday, but opening times will be staggered to relieve pressure on public transport.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

(PA Graphics)

The easing of restrictions also allow people to travel up to 20kms from their home, groups of up to six to be able to interact indoors with social distancing, and groups of up to 15 able to meet for outdoor sporting activities.

Health Minister Simon Harris said:  “This is a great day for our country. It is a day of hope. It is a day that we were not guaranteed to get to.

“There will be grannies and granddads waking up this morning waiting to see their grandkids.

“There will be people heading back to work today who were not sure if they could go back to their job several weeks ago,” he told RTE radio.

“It is a really good day, people have brought up to this point with their hard work and sacrifices.

“What I would say is, I want the good day to become a good week and a good month and a good year, and for us to keep going forward.

“To do that the issue of our own personal behaviour becomes more important than ever.”

Mr Harris said the current two-metre social distancing rule could be changed for the hospitality sector if the number of confirmed cases remains low.

“Two metres is definitely safer than one, however NPHET (National Public Health Emergency Team) have recognised that there may be some settings where the two metres may not be easily applied.

“They will review the social distancing measure in the hospitality sector.”

Work took place across the weekend at shops to prepare their premises for reopening, with social distancing markers being placed on the ground as well as signage.

In Dublin city centre, queues formed from before 10.30 am, when shops were due to re-open.

Temporary public toilets opened in the city centre, as they remain closed in cafes, restaurants and shopping centres.

A long queue formed outside the Zara store on Dublin’s South King Street, with limited numbers allowed in at a time to accommodate social distancing.

There was a priority queue for older shoppers in several stores, to allow them to shop between 10am and noon.

Customers were told to use the hand sanitiser at the entrance and staff in most shops wore gloves and masks.

A group of friends from Dublin were among the first to enter the Zara store.

Sarah Keane, 17, said: “They still had a lot of their older winter stock but I’m so glad to be able to shop again and update my wardrobe. I just bought a few summer tops but I’ll go to more shops today – we’re only getting started.

“We weren’t anxious about going into the shops again after all these weeks. We have loads of hand sanitiser and gloves with us and the shops aren’t allowed to be packed.”

Caitlin Ryan, 16, said: “The shop staff were really helpful and the shops are all so clean. You can’t try things on which is annoying but I guess they have to take precautions.”

Hundreds of people joined the queue to get into the Ikea store in Ballymun in Dublin, which stretched far beyond the store.

People who are 70 or older, or are medically vulnerable, will also be able to have visitors in their homes, with social distancing observed and the wearing of masks advised, while up to 25 people will be allowed to attend funerals.

Public libraries will begin reopening, as will playgrounds and outdoor camps for children, provided there are no more than 15 people involved, and some elite sports training will be possible.

Marts may reopen, and horse and greyhound racing can resume without spectators.

Health officials confirmed one coronavirus-related death on Sunday and 25 new confirmed cases.

It brings the death toll in Ireland to 1,679 and the total number of confirmed cases to 25,201.

PA