Varadkar: Exercise limit to be extended to 5km as restrictions to remain until May 18

Leo Varadkar is addressing the nation this evening following a Cabinet meeting where advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team was debated.
Varadkar: Exercise limit to be extended to 5km as restrictions to remain until May 18
Leo Varadkar addresses the nation. Picture: PA

    Main points:
  • Restrictions to remain in place until May 18
  • Country to be reopened in five three-week phases
  • 2km exercise limit to be extended to 5km from May 5
  • Over 70s to be allowed out from May 5; if they do they should avoid contact with people
  • Schools and colleges to reopen in September or October

Ireland will begin to reopen on May 18 and will continue in five three-week phases.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made the announcement on Friday night, as the economy and society looks to reopen after the Covid-19 outbreak which has claimed more than1,100 lives.

The first phase will begin on May 18 after what the Taoiseach called "two more weeks of tight restrictions".

That date will see the return of outdoor workers, with DIY stores, garden centres and repair shops opening as well as the return to some limited sports and exercise activities.

It will also be possible to meet small groups of friends and family outdoors.

People over 70, who have been cocooning will also be allowed to leave their home for exercise.

"On Tuesday, it will be possible to travel up to five kilometres from your home for the purposes of exercise.

"For people who are cocooning, the public health advice is to continue to do so. However from Tuesday, it will be possible to go for a walk or a drive within five kilometres of your home, if you avoid all contact with other people.

Our plan is to reopen the country, in a slow, staged, phased way, five stages, three weeks apart, starting on May 18.

In later phases, other workplaces and businesses like childcare, preschools restaurants, cafes, bars cinemas and gyms will reopen.

Schools and colleges will reopen in September and October, at the start of the new academic year.

"With all things going to plan, the fifth phase will commence on August 10," Mr Varadkar added.

As the risk of the second wave of the virus is a possibility, public health advice is that three weeks is allotted from one phase to the next, to ensure the virus stays under control between each phase.

Mr Varadkar added there is a risk that the country would have to go back a stage if that happens.

"In any scenario, at least until we have a vaccine, or an effective treatment, there will be a long term need for physical distancing, hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene and for people to stay at home and isolated if they're sick," he added.

"It will take some time for our lives to get back to normal, to a new normal, but it will happen.

"So on the 18th of May, Ireland begins to reopen and begins that journey to a new normal.

"Not long from now, some summer night. We will see our friends again.

The Taoiseach said that now was the time to "finish what we started", saying the seven weeks of restrictions had "saved thousands of lives".

"Tonight there is hope," he said. "In the weeks ahead, that hope will drive us forward."

Leo Varadkar on his way to address the nation. Picture: PA
Leo Varadkar on his way to address the nation. Picture: PA

Cabinet will meet on Saturday morning to agree further actions to help businesses to restart, with an national protocol being developed by government employers and trade unions with the assistance of the Health and Safety Authority and the HSE, "to enable a gradual restart to economic activity as restrictions are eased while protecting the health and safety of all workers, as they returned to work".

Varadkar: 2km exercise limit to be extended to 5km as restrictions to remain until May 18

By Paul Hosford and Steve Neville, with reporting from Press Association

Ireland will begin to reopen on May 18 and will continue in five three-week phases.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made the announcement on Friday night, as the country looks to reopen after the Covid-19 outbreak which has claimed more than 1,100 lives.

The first phase will begin on May 18 after what the Taoiseach called "two more weeks of tight restrictions". That date will see the return of outdoor workers, with DIY stores, garden centres and repair shops opening as well as the return to some limited sports and exercise activities.

The Taoiseach has also announced that the 2km exercise restriction will be extended to 5km from May 5.

Mr Varadkar announced that people over 70 who are cocooning will be allowed to go out, from May 5.

He added that the public health advice is that people over 70 should remain cocooning, but if they do go out, they should avoid contact with people.

He said that the rest of the restrictions would remain in place until May 18.

The Taoiseach said we need "two more weeks of tight restrictions."

Mr Varadkar said that schools and colleges will reopen in September.

“Many regular health services will resume operating and it will be possible to meet small groups of friends and family outdoors,” he said.

“Not long from now, some summer night, we will see our friends again.

“In later phases other workplaces, businesses, childcare, preschools, restaurants, cafes, bars, cinemas and gyms will reopen.

“Schools and colleges will reopen in September/October at the start of the new academic year."

The Cabinet is due to meet again tomorrow "to agree further actions to help our businesses to restart, reconnect and rehire staff who’ve been laid off or furloughed.”

Mr Varadkar said the last few weeks have transformed people’s lives “in so many different ways and ways that we could not have imagined”.

He said: “I know it’s been difficult.

“The uncertainty about when things will get back to normal and the fear of the virus itself.

“As a nation, our physical health has been attacked, our mental health eroded.

“Our economy battered and our society put to the ultimate test.

“Many people are lonely during the pain of isolation.

“Many people are grieving in silence and many have lost their jobs.”

Earlier today, it was announced that 34 more people with Covid-19 have died.

There have now been a total of 1,265 deaths in Ireland

There are also 221 new cases of coronavirus in the country.

The total number of cases now stands at 20,833.

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