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Taoiseach announces accelerated easing of coronavirus restrictions

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has announced that the roadmap to reopening the country will be accelerated and shortened as he said a “new day” is approaching.

The plan will now be shortened from five to four phases.

From Monday people can travel anywhere within their own county or up to 20km from their home, whichever is the larger distance. Travel restrictions will be removed on June 29th.

From Monday groups of up to six can meet indoors or outdoors and groups of up to 15 people can meet for outdoor sport.

Mr Varadkar said working from home should remain the norm. Up to 25 people can attend a funeral.

From Monday public libraries can open and a new summer education programme for children with special educational needs will be introduced.

Playgrounds, once supervised, can reopen on Monday and summer camps for children can also be held once there are no more than 15 people mixing together. High performance athletes can return to training facilities.

The Taoiseach also confirmed that shops can reopen from Monday.

“The shops that are reopening will be required to operate staggered hours opening no earlier than 10.30am and allocating dedicated time for the elderly, vulnerable and at risk.”

Shopping malls can open on June 15th but measures must be taken to ensure that people cannot congregate.

“Summer is not lost and this can be a summer of hope if we keep the virus at bay,” Mr Varadkar said.

He also confirmed that hotels, restaurants, hostels and museums can reopen from June 29. Places of worship will resume services with precautions.

Mr Varadkar said pubs and bars do not need a restaurant licence to open on June 29th with restaurants and cafes.

“Next week we will publish detailed guidance for hotels, bars and restaurants, cafes, and it will all be set out in that next week,” the Taoiseach added.

“But to give you an impression of what will be allowed, bars, pubs that can operate as restaurants will be allowed to do so.

“So that will mean table service, socially distant, but not people sitting at a bar, or, you know, hanging around, standing, as you might like to do in a pub.

“It will effectively be pubs and bars that can operate as if they were restaurants, but they won’t need to have a restaurant licence though.”

The Taoiseach said personal responsibility will become more important than ever.

“As Cicero said, the safety of the people shall be our highest law. It is safe to move to phase two starting on Monday. This has been made possible because of considerable sacrifices you have made to restrict the spread of the virus. I am also announcing an acceleration of the roadmap. Fear has exerted a kind of gravity pulling us down but now we find there is hope lifting us up.

“We are making progress. We are heading in the right direction and we have earned the right to be hopeful about the future,” he said.

While opposition parties broadly welcomed the Government’s decision to accelerate the reopening of the economy, Labour Party leader Alan Kelly criticised the lack of detail on plans to reopen the healthcare system.

He also said the proposed changes to Covid-19 unemployment payment will discriminate against young people.

“I have been saying for weeks that the people have been ahead of the Government when it comes to the roadmap so it is welcome that the Government have reduced the roadmap from five phases to four. Things have moved. We now know that we have to live with this virus for a considerable period.

“We cannot put everything into hibernation, including society, the economy, and particularly secondary healthcare.”

“We also need to see the plan for the reopening of the health service that has been promised long before we entered phase one… Getting out health service back up and running is the most important thing we can do now and should be of huge focus for the Government.”

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald again called for the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment to remain in place until the end of the year. “Doing so would be good for the economy, for workers and for families,” she said.

Under Phase 2, from Monday June 8th, the following changes will come into effect:

– People can travel within their own county, or up to 20 km from your home, whichever is greater. These travel limits will be lifted from the end of June.

– Groups of up to six people will be able to interact with each other indoors or outdoors, once they keep at least 2m apart. Groups of up to 15 will be able to meet for outdoor sporting activities.

– For those who are over 70 or medically vulnerable, it will be possible to welcome a small number of visitors into their home, with physical distancing observed.

– Shops will also provide dedicated hours for those who are over 70 or in an at risk group.

-All retail stores can reopen, but opening times will be staggered to relieve pressure on public transport. People are encouraged to shop locally, shop safely and support businesses in your community.

– Up to 25 people will be allowed to attend funerals of loved ones.

-Public libraries will commence re-opening.

– Playgrounds can reopen from Monday, and outdoor camps for children can also be run, once there are no more than 15 people involved.

-Certain types of elite sports training will also be possible.

– More people will be able to return to work, including all those who work on their own or whose work can be done safely while staying 2m apart from others. Working from home should remain the norm for those who can do so.

– Marts can re-open and greyhound racing can resume without spectators.

From The Irish Times