Covid-19 Q&A: What will open and when under eased restrictions?

Here is what is included in the plan, which is best described as "level 3 minus" under the Government's strategy for living with Covid-19
Covid-19 Q&A: What will open and when under eased restrictions?

Sheena McCarthy of Sheena's Boutique on Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork City during the last days of the Level 5 lockdown. Picture: Larry Cummins

The Government has announced its plan for exiting level 5 Covid-19 restrictions.

With no vaccine for the virus likely until the middle of next year, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has speculated that a third lockdown may be needed in January, but for now, the country will ease restrictions. 

Here is what is included in the plan, which is best described as "level 3 minus" under the Government's strategy for living with Covid-19

Will I be able to go home for Christmas?

Yes. Under the plan, home visiting restrictions will be lifted from December 18 until January 6. This will be limited, however, to people from three different households with no cap on numbers, with the Government fearing being "too prescriptive". 

The domestic travel guidance, which will allow people to travel within their counties only, will also be lifted on the same date. But there is a caveat - the Government's advice is that you should not hug or shake hands with those you see.

The Government is urging people to be sensible about the number of people they meet, saying that "every contact counts". 

They are hoping that people keep their daily contacts to a minimum across the period. Mr Martin said that people should "limit contacts outside a small circle".

If you are travelling from abroad, the European traffic-light system will apply with one major difference. From midnight Sunday, foreign travellers returning from red countries in the system can reduce their 14-day quarantine period to five days if they get a negative test within three days prior to flying and again after a five-day period.

Will there be Mass on Christmas day?

Yes, churches will open but will be expected to enforce social distancing rules. The opening of places of worship will be reviewed in January.

Will pubs and restaurants open? When?

Yes, but only if they serve food. From December 4, next Friday, pubs which have a working kitchen on site will be allowed to open, broadly under level 2 rules, which would allow six people from three households to be seated together. 

The Government was said to be "sympathetic" to the plight of the hospitality industry and moved the opening date to Friday to allow for an extra weekend of business between now and Christmas. The previous €9 substantial meal requirement will be enforced and only pubs with a working kitchen which is serving food will be allowed trade.

Customers will also be subject to time limits as they were under previous lockdowns unless their table is more than two metres away from another.

For wet pubs, however, the outlook is bleaker. They will not be allowed open, with the prospect of them being closed until the end of January or into February now very real. Wet pubs can do takeaway drinks and will receive double supports under the Government's CRSS scheme.

Hotels will also open their bars to residents, but non-residents will be allowed under strict conditions.

When can I go to non-essential shops?

Shops will re-open on Tuesday under the level 3 guidance. This allows for all non-essential shops and shopping centres to open with protective measures in place. The Government has also decided to issue an advisory that face masks are to be recommended for outdoor crowded spaces, like busy shopping streets, but it will not be the law.

Can I get my hair done? Or go to the gym?

Yes. From Tuesday, salons, gyms, barbers and spas will open with additional safety measures in place.

This will also go for cinemas, museums, galleries and libraries, albeit under restricted numbers and provisions.

What about sports?

The best news in sport will come for golfers and tennis players. Both of those sports can resume from Tuesday.

While there will be no return for non-elite matches or games, non-contact training can resume in pods of 15. Horse-racing can continue, meaning that the Christmas racing festivals will go ahead, but behind closed doors.

What about funerals and weddings?

Weddings will continue with 25 in attendance, while the number allowed at funerals will be the same. No other indoor gatherings will be allowed, but outdoor gatherings of 15 are permitted. People should continue to work from home unless absolutely necessary.

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