Employees stuck working at home since last March will be able to return to their offices by September under plans being developed by the Government, it can be revealed.
While wholly dependent on the speed and scale of the vaccine rollout in the coming months, senior government sources have made clear that allowing workers return to the office is seen as a priority.
The news comes amid growing optimism within the Coalition over the potential to open the country earlier than expected given a significant drop in hospitalisations and deaths linked to Covid-19.
“But, we need to ensure vaccination is done at a mass scale and business can ensure their premises are properly ventilated,” said one minister.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar confirmed the reopening of non-essential retail and personal services including hairdressers.
Next month will also see the resumption of religious services and the full return of construction, the Tánaiste said.
At Cabinet, ministers agreed to meet next week once it had advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).
“That would involve looking at personal services, like barbers and hairdressers; retail; more outdoor activities; religious services, and the full return of construction,” he said.
“They’re the kind of things that we’re going to look at next week for May. I don’t want to particularly speculate beyond that.”
Underage non-contact outdoor training in pods of 15 or fewer can resume and outdoor visitor attractions, including zoos, petting farms, and heritage sites can reopen.
Hospitality should only be open for take-away services.
Maximum attendance at funerals will increase to 25 on compassionate grounds.
Meanwhile, the HSE will be required to replan the vaccination schedule again after AstraZeneca announced there would be a shortfall in deliveries next week, an Oireachtas committee has heard.
Speaking at a meeting of the Oireachtas health committee, Damien McCallion, the HSE's national lead for the Covid-19 vaccination programme, said supply is the biggest constraint to the programme.
“Last week alone, of the projected deliveries for the next four weeks for the four vaccines, we have 12 changes in either dates of delivery or volumes,” Mr McCallion said.
We’ve had changes from AstraZeneca in the last 48 hours, which will reduce our capacity over the coming weeks as well.”
A second delivery scheduled for April 30, of 165,000 doses, is now delayed, with an expected new arrival date of May 3, she added.
Excluding the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the State is expected to receive about 800,000 Covid-19 vaccines in April, 1.4m doses in May, and 1.6m doses in June. To date, more than 1.2m doses have been administered.