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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar briefing on the first phase of easing restrictions

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar briefing on the first phase of easing restrictions

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar briefing on the first phase of easing restrictions

The first phase of easing Covid-19 restrictions in the Republic of Ireland is to happen on Monday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed.

Mr Varadkar said the decision comes following advice from the National Public Health and Emergency Team (NPHET), a group of scientific experts who have been advising the Irish Government on Covid-19.

Yesterday it was confirmed the coronavirus death toll in Ireland has risen to 1,518 after a further 16 deaths were announced by the NPHET. There have been 129 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, bringing the total in Ireland since the outbreak began to 23,956.

Mr Varadkar said that, while the decision to begin lifting restrictions gives the public "reason to hope", he warned it is not a "cause for celebration".

Speaking at Government Buildings in Dublin, Mr Varadkar added: "We have a long way to go yet. There will be bumps in the road and we have to keep our guard up.

"If all goes well, we will enter a new phase of reopening our country every three weeks."

The next review will take place on June 5. However, the Taoiseach urged the public to keep following the guidelines before the Government can move to the next stage.

"Everything is provisional and reversible, and our progress depends on us all continuing to do what we have been doing," he added. "As the restrictions ease and we come into contact with more people, the opportunity for the virus to spread increases.

"So, self-discipline and personal responsibility will become more important, not less."

From Monday, small groups of up to four people will be able to meet outside, while keeping two metres apart. People involved mainly in outdoor work will be able to return to work, including construction workers, gardeners and people tending to allotments.

Garden centres, hardware stores, farmers' markets, opticians and mechanics will also be able to reopen.

"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," Mr Varadkar added.

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

"In every single case it is vital that we maintain a physical distance of two metres.

"In three weeks' time, on Friday, June 5, I fervently hope to be here to announce that we will move to Phase 2, a further relaxation of restrictions. This depends on the progress we make between now and then. Nothing is guaranteed.

"The only thing that is inevitable is the spread of the virus unless we push it back every day."

The Taoiseach also urged the public to wear face coverings when using busy public transport or in an enclosed indoor public area.

He added, however, that it will not be a legal requirement for people to wear a face covering.

"We will be asking to wear them in busy enclosed spaces like a shop but it is not going to be a legal requirement," he added.

"The reason for that is that all the science around it indicates it may be beneficial, it is not a substitute for washing your hands properly and social distancing. "

He said videos will be made available so that people can learn to make them at home and how to wear them. Health Minister Simon Harris said under-13s will not be asked to wear them.

Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan said face coverings "are not magic shields".

"The evidence is not very strong in relation to the value of face coverings and we have evidence that, with this disease, hand transmission is key," Dr Holohan added.

Belfast Telegraph