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Ireland accelerates exit out of lockdown

Phase two of the country’s recovery road map will begin on Monday as planned, along with other measures originally envisaged for later phases.

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Leo Varadkar briefs the media at Government Buildings (PA)

Leo Varadkar briefs the media at Government Buildings (PA)

Leo Varadkar briefs the media at Government Buildings (PA)

Ireland is to accelerate its journey out of coronavirus lockdown after the Government announced the fast-tracking of a series of relaxation measures.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said phase two of the country’s road map to recovery would be triggered on Monday as scheduled.

But he said a series of other steps, originally envisaged for later phases of the plan, would also be given the green light from next week.

Mr Varadkar described the series of relaxations as “phase two plus”.

The five-phase plan has also now been condensed into a four-phase plan, meaning Ireland will move out of lockdown at a faster pace that previously planned.

“I’ve always said we would accelerate the reopening our country but only if it was safe to do so,” Mr Varadkar said.

“Thanks to your actions we have now reached that point.”

From Monday, all retail outlets will reopen with staggered hours, while shopping malls can reopen on June 15.

Next week, the distance restriction on exercise extends from 5km to 20km, or any distance within a person’s own county boundaries.

Small groups of people will be allowed to visit the homes of those cocooning, as long as social distancing is observed.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

(PA Graphics)

Groups of up to six people will be able to interact with each other indoors or outdoors, as long as they keep two metres apart.

Groups of up to 15 will be able to meet for outdoor sporting activities and elite athletes can resume training.

Up to 25 people will be allowed to attend funerals of loved ones and public libraries will commence re-opening.

The Government has also announced a series of additional measures for children and older people.

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

Shops will also provide dedicated hours for those who are over 70 or in an at risk group.

Meanwhile, playgroups and summer camps can operate again and playgrounds will also reopen.

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

All travel restrictions within Ireland will also lift on that date. Pubs will also be able to reopen, but only if they are functioning as restaurants and serving food.

Phase four, which will contain all remaining measures in the road map, is planned for July 20.

Mr Varadkar announced the measures in a wide ranging speech that quoted both Roman statesman Cicero and Lord Of The Rings character Samwise Gamgee.

The Taoiseach said that hairdressers, barbers and nail bars will remain shut until the final phase.

“Everyone would really like to see them open as soon as possible but as of now that remain in phase four and that is for very good reason,” he added.

The Taoiseach said restrictions on large gatherings would continue into the autumn.

I've always said we would accelerate the reopening our country but only if it was safe to do so. Thanks to your actions we have now reached that point.Leo Varadkar

The two-metre measure for social distancing remains but experts have been tasked with reviewing the evidence around a potential reduction.

The coronavirus death toll in Ireland rose to 1,670 on Friday, after a further seven deaths were announced.

There were 28 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, taking the total since the outbreak began to 25,163.

Mr Varadkar said he had informed the leaders of the Northern Ireland Executive about the plans before making them public.

However, First Minister Arlene Foster later expressed concern that the consultation had not been sufficient.

The Taoiseach hailed the Irish public’s adherence to the restrictions during lockdown.

“Over the last few months fear has exerted a kind of gravity pulling us down, but now we find there is hope lifting us up again,” he said.

“During this emergency we have suffered as a country, lost loved ones, and changed the way that we work and live.

“We are making progress. We are heading in the right direction.

“And we have earned the right to be hopeful about the future again.”

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Dr Tony Holohan said he hoped people would not try to find loophole to avoid complying with the relaxed regulations (Brian Lawless/PA)

Dr Tony Holohan said he hoped people would not try to find loophole to avoid complying with the relaxed regulations (Brian Lawless/PA)

PA

Dr Tony Holohan said he hoped people would not try to find loophole to avoid complying with the relaxed regulations (Brian Lawless/PA)

Later, at the daily Covid-19 media briefing, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said as Ireland progressed through the road map’s phases more focus would 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.

“And I think we’ve got substantial evidence behind us now at this point after a number of months to show that the Irish public is listening, and is willing to comply with changing advice.

“And so I think for that reason people in significant numbers aren’t going to use these kinds of opportunities in that way.”

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar said no date has been confirmed to resume non-essential air travel.

He added: “I would encourage people not to go booking flights just yet, that would be premature.”

The Cabinet made the decisions after receiving advice from experts on the National Public Health Emergency Team, which Dr Holohan chairs.

Mr Varadkar said ministers had also considered Government reports on the economic and social impact of Covid-19.

PA