Minister for Health Simon Harris has said that today is an important day and that he was both pleased and nervous at Phase One of the easing of restrictions.
Mr Harris said he was pleased that the efforts of the Irish people had brought us this far, but nervous because the virus had not gone away.
There needed to be a “collective sense of cop on” he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland. Just because a place was open did not mean one needed to go there, he said, but if people did they must practice social distancing and hand washing.
“If we get the next three weeks right it means we will have found a way to live safely with the virus. We will be watching the figures.”
Mr Harris said progress was “in our hands” and the country could move forward if “we don't get ahead of ourselves.
“We’ve stuck with testing and tracing, we’ve got to keep working on it and it will be a major focus for the HSE.”
In response to questions about cocooning and if people could return from their holiday home to their main residence, Mr Harris said they could not as the 5km rule still applied unless there were extenuating circumstances, such as medical care.
Beaches are now open, he said and people could drive 5km to walk on a beach, but they should apply social distancing rules while there.
The virus is potentially within us and we're asking people to stay at home as much as possible and extra movement brings extra risk.
Cemeteries are outdoor areas and should be open from today, depending on local authorities, but the 5km travel limit still applies, he said.
When asked about specific numbers for ‘small’ weddings, the Minister said it was “highly unlikely” to be 100, it was likely to be a “very small number of people” but that a “range” would be decided upon shortly. Mr Harris said he was due to have been groomsman at a wedding shortly, but having spoken to the groom, the wedding had been postponed to next year.
“We'll try and provide more guidance over the next few weeks but a lot depends on the behaviour of the virus.”
In reply to a question whether a bouncy castle business could reopen from today, the Minster said no, that it was difficult to practice social distancing on a bouncy castle.
The government had no plans to nationalise public hospitals, Mr Harris said in response to a question about transplant operations in public hospitals, but a future government could examine that issue, he added.
It was in the interest of the construction industry “to get this right”, he said of the return to work today. “If they don’t they will be closed down.”