Taoiseach announces plan for 'The Path Ahead' as Covid-19 restrictions eased

Taoiseach announces plan for 'The Path Ahead' as Covid-19 restrictions eased

Micheál Martin addresses the nation. Picture: Julien Behal Photography

The summer is coming, the Taoiseach said as he announced a wide reopening of society in the coming months.

Speaking tonight at Government Buildings, Micheál Martin praised the efforts of the Irish public and said that "hope is returning" as he announced the Recovery and Resilience: The Path Ahead plan.

"Each of us has a vision of a moment that we're looking forward to enjoying when this is over. We are closer to that moment than ever."

The Taoiseach said that he had asked the Irish people to "exercise caution" and this had been met.

"The strategy is working. Because of your hard work and sacrifices, we are in a better place."

TIMETABLE TO REOPENING 

May 4

Irish Rail resumes full weekday timetable.

Construction reopens fully

May 10

Inter-county travel recommences;

Personal services such as hairdressers, barbers and beauticians are allowed to reopen;

Three households can meet outdoor in groups of up six people over the age of 12, including garden parties;

Outdoor gatherings of up to 15 people allowed;

Outdoor training of up to 15 people allowed; 

Vaccinated grandparents will be able to meet with unvaccinated grandchildren indoors; 

Click-and-collect retail can recommence, and garden centres will be allowed reopen; 

Up to 50 people allowed attend religious services, including weddings and funerals. However, wedding receptions will be limited to six, rising to 25 in June; 

Galleries, museums, and libraries reopen. 

May 17

Full return of non-essential retail is expected.

June 2

Hotels and guesthouses allowed to reopen, indoor dining for residents only.

June 7

Outdoor hospitality expected to return, with no distinction between pubs serving food and those that do not; 

Gyms, cinemas and swimming pools also reopen; 

Sporting events without crowds also now allowed.

July

Indoor dining expected to return.

He pointed to schools, construction and children's sport as evidence of last month's slow easing of restrictions.

Mr Martin said that the Government has looked at a number of factors, including the "risks of moving too quickly" and said that his "thoughts and prayers" were with India.

"We are doing all we can to ensure that when we open something, it stays open."

He said that from May 10, inter-county travel and non-essential click and collect retail could open, along with libraries, religious services and museums.

A maximum of three households or six people can meet, he said, along with outdoor events of 15 people at most. 

Fully vaccinated people can meet with a household that's not been fully vaccinated indoors from May 10, he said. He added that as a personal relief, he was happy to announce the return of personal services like hairdressing from that date.

Hotels will open on June 2, if the situation allows and from June 7, hospitality, sports games, and household visits of two homes can resume.

Vaccines

Mr Martin said that changes to the vaccine rollout had required flexibility and change, which had been met, with 95% of available vaccines having been administered.

Those aged 50-59 can register for their vaccine from next week, the Taoiseach announced. In a sign that the Government is betting big on vaccine rollout, Mr Martin said that vaccines were transformative.

He said that he wanted to see aviation, tourism and hospitality open by August and third-level students back on campus by September.

However, he said that this all relied on "sticking to the strategy".

"Our choices and our personal actions continue to be key. At every stage of this year, you have done everything asked of you."

Micheál Martin addresses the nation. Picture: Julien Behal Photography
Micheál Martin addresses the nation. Picture: Julien Behal Photography

He said that the Government had agreed to double the payments under the CRSS for hospitality businesses to assist with their reopening.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that the announcement was "good news" for people who had not been able to work this year.

She said that the announcement must come with a redoubling of efforts in testing and tracing, saying that they were "the building blocks in our defences".

She added that the pandemic supports needed to continue and there needed to be "more clarity" on what will happen to them in July.

Labour Party leader Alan Kelly said that "every tool must be used to keep the virus under control, particularly antigen testing".

“This is a very important moment, and I am conscious that the public health advice supports these decisions. People have made huge sacrifices over recent months and this provides more hope for the future if vaccines can be delivered to people at the rate as has been committed to.

“But as I’ve said many times, every tool at the Government’s disposal must be used to keep the virus under control. 

"If there is an outbreak there must be swift action to aggressively suppress the virus in the community. Walk-in testing centres for example have played a vital role."

Restrictions that will be lifted include:

Hospitality

All accommodation including hotels, B&Bs, self-catering, and hostels should reopen in June.

Outdoor dining and beer gardens will be allowed to operate from June.

Pubs and restaurants will not be allowed to serve indoors until at least July.

Vaccine bonus

Three fully-vaccinated individuals or households will be permitted to meet indoors from May. 

Fully vaccinated people will also be able to meet up with one other household that is not vaccinated provided they are not at risk of serious health difficulties.

Travel

The public can travel between counties in Ireland from May 10

Transport

Public transport will increase to 50% capacity from May 10.

Religious services

Up to 50 people will be able to attend all religious services from May, provided they can socially distance themselves.

Funerals and weddings

While 50 people will be allowed to attend religious wedding services, just six will be permitted to go to the reception if it is indoors.

This number will increase to 15 for outdoor wedding receptions and a marquee will be considered as being outside. Indoor wedding receptions will increase to 25 people from June.

Construction

To return fully from May 4

Non-essential retail

Click and collect from May 10, reopen May 17

Sport

Adult outdoor training will be allowed in pods of 15 from May.

Gyms and indoor swimming pools will reopen in June, however, no group classes will be allowed and instead individual sessions will be permitted.

It comes as Nphet confirmed three further deaths related to Covid-19 along with 474 new cases of the virus in Ireland. 

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said that today is "a good day" with measures which will "bring a lot of relief to people".

Earlier the Minister for Foreign Affairs said staged and incremental reopening of society next month offers Ireland a pathway out of the Covid-19 pandemic

Simon Coveney said the reopening is in line with public health advice.

“I think today is one of those moments when hope will start breaking through amongst society in Ireland, that there is a pathway out of this awful pandemic that we’ve been experiencing now for over a year,” he added.

“It’s staged, it’s incremental, it’s consistent with public health advice, but it is very hopeful."

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From florist to fraudster, leaving a trail of destruction from North Cork, to Waterford, to Clare, to Wexford and through the midlands ... learn how mistress of re-invention, Catherine O'Brien, scammed her way around rural Ireland.

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