Summer of staycations 'is really the likelihood now' as Covid numbers fall

'We have begun our journey to the end of this pandemic,' said Taoiseach Micheál Martin. 'We will get there.'
Summer of staycations 'is really the likelihood now' as Covid numbers fall

While an official announcement will not be made until the end of this month, ministers will this week begin planning for a further easing of restrictions. File picture: Larry Cummins

There is growing optimism that the easing of restrictions will be brought forward to allow for a summer of staycations from June.

While it had been expected that nationwide travel would not be allowed before July, the Government and health officials say the country is in a significantly better place than had been expected, and this date is now likely to be brought forward.

The optimism was further fuelled last night with the lowest daily Covid case numbers for four months.

Further easing of restrictions expected

One further Covid-related death was confirmed and 269 new cases of the virus were diagnosed.

While an official announcement will not be made until the end of this month, ministers will this week begin planning for a further easing of restrictions.

"A summer of staycations and domestic tourism is really the likelihood now," one minister said. "That wasn't always the case, but it's looking very likely now."

On the first weekend since the lifting of the 5km travel restriction, holidaymakers in campervans filled the park on the seafront in Bantry, Co Cork.  Picture: David Creedon/Anzenberger
On the first weekend since the lifting of the 5km travel restriction, holidaymakers in campervans filled the park on the seafront in Bantry, Co Cork.  Picture: David Creedon/Anzenberger

Construction is set to fully open to allow work on commercial developments to recommence from the start of next month, while click-and-collect shopping services are also expected to return in early May. There is also a big push to allow adult sports teams to train in pods of 15 as soon as possible.

Leagues expected to resume

A document which had originally been prepared before Christmas — when it had been expected there would be a broad return to sport early in the new year — will also feed into the restart of adult sports.

"We had issues in the autumn, where there were complaints as it was felt that clubs were training indefinitely without being able to compete," said one Government minister.

It is expected that local leagues could be rolled out from June to allow clubs compete against other local teams.

Property viewings

Housing minister Darragh O'Brien is also understood to be strongly lobbying to allow house viewings to resume from the start of May.

Currently, estate agents can only hold virtual viewings for all properties for sale and buyers are not allowed into homes until the deal goes to the sale-agreed stage.

Cautious optimism

While optimism is growing within Cabinet, the Government does not want to over-promise — and there is still a certain degree of caution as ministers are adamant that there cannot be any further lockdowns after the country opens up in the weeks ahead.

The easing of restrictions in the North will also play a part in the decisions, with one member of Government stating that it would be detrimental to have a large gap between businesses opening here and across the border.

'A significantly better place'

Stephen Donnelly, the health minister, said the country is in "a significantly better place" than was anticipated even a month ago: 

"If we go back four weeks to when the Cabinet was looking at the measures for April and what might be considered for May, the best-case scenario was that we would reach about 1,000 cases a day before bending the curve back down again.

Mr Donnelly said the reproductive number of the virus is now below 1, which “puts us in a very positive position for the conversation about May, June, and July”.

"What is under consideration from the start of May is full opening up for construction, non-essential retail, personal services, museums, galleries, libraries, religious services, and so forth," he said.

Taoiseach: Lifting of restrictions has started

Micheál Martin said the gradual steps of lifting some restrictions have already started and "if we can maintain control of the virus we will go as fast as possible in lifting more".

"We will review progress in the days ahead and set out the steps which we can implement in May," the Taoiseach said. "We will look to get all construction activity reopened. We understand the major impact felt by small business and want to see a return of more commercial activity and personal services."

We have begun our journey to the end of this pandemic. We will get there. 

More in this section

War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

Available on
www.irishexaminer.com/podcasts

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence