The reopening of non-essential retail, barbers, hairdressers, and hospitality in May and June is expected to be discussed and signed off by ministers tomorrow.
While the Government will tomorrow announce an easing of restrictions to come into effect on April 5, it will also set out a longer-term plan of when people can expect further sectors of society to open up.
The Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19 will meet at 6pm tonight and consider the latest recommendations from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) before an expected easing of restrictions is announced.
Despite stubbornly high positive case numbers over the weekend — 1,228 between Saturday and Sunday alone — it is expected that a number of measures will be announced, including a relaxation of the 5km travel limit and on the number of people who can meet outdoors, a return of all children to their schools, and a possible return of construction activity.
Foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney said both Nphet and the Government recognise that people do need some room to breathe in the context of the impact that these restrictions have had for so many months.
“I would expect, but I can't be sure, that we will be looking at the 5km restriction, that we'll be looking at outdoor activity [and] we will certainly want to facilitate completing the full return to school for our children after April 5,” he said yesterday.
Mr Coveney said that if possible, the Government will approve a return to construction.
There is a strong desire within the Government to see all school children return as planned after Easter on April 12. Any easing of restrictions for outdoor activities will most likely “be on a phased basis”.
However, the major source of concern is the fact that the R number is as high as 1.3 due to the B117 variant, so the continuing message is that we all have to work to limit daily contacts still.
Meanwhile, the business lobby group Ibec said the country still has the potential to return to a more normal rhythm in the second half of 2021.
In its quarterly economic outlook, published today, it forecasts that GDP will increase by 3.1% this year on the back of continued export growth and said an efficient vaccine rollout will allow people to return to work and give the economy a significant boost.
"Disregarding the noise about vaccine supply, the signal is clear," Ibec Chief Economist, Gerard Brady, said. "With efficient rollout, most adults should have their first dose by the end of June. From there, light will begin to creep in."