CORK businesses have had a broadly positive reaction to the Government’s decision to accelerate the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business. However, some have cautioned that more detail and some changes are needed as shops open their doors on Monday, and hotels, restaurants, and bars prepare to reopen in the weeks ahead.
Yesterday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said phase two of the country’s road map to recovery would be triggered on Monday as scheduled.
But he said a series of other steps, originally envisaged for later phases of the plan, would also be given the green light from next week. Mr Varadkar described the series of relaxations as “phase two plus”.
The five-phase plan has also now been condensed into a four-phase plan, meaning Ireland will move out of lockdown at a faster pace that previously planned.
“I’ve always said we would accelerate the reopening our country, but only if it was safe to do so,” Mr Varadkar said. “Thanks to your actions we have now reached that point.”
From Monday, all retail outlets that choose to reopen can do so are allowed to will reopen with staggered hours, while shopping malls can reopen on June 15.
Conor Healy, Cork Chamber CEO, said the return of retail will provide a “boost” for high streets.
“I encourage people to shop local and to support their local business community,” he said.
John Hartnett, centre manager at Blackpool Shopping Centre, welcomed the fact that centres will also reopen.
“It is only fair that if people can trade on Patrick Street, that they should be able to trade in shopping centres,” he said.
Mr Hartnett said they were delighted to be able to leave the public back in, although he stressed controls would be in place, and visits to the shopping centre could not be ‘day trips’.
“It’s good that the elderly can come in too, that we have some normality, and that we can all enjoy the summer of normality,” he said.
Lawrence Owens, CEO of the Cork Business Association, said the announcement was “very positive”.
He said that businesses have been planning for re-opening for some time, and have put a lot of resources and finances into their premises ahead of this.
“They are working hard. They have to. Their livelihoods are at stake,” Mr Owens said.
However, he also said that he would have liked it if the Government had also made a change around the guidance that people need to maintain 2m physical distance. The measure for social distancing remains in place, but experts have been tasked with reviewing the evidence around a potential reduction.
“I would like to see the 2m go to 1m sooner rather than later,” he said, noting that it could be a “game-changer” for hospitality in particular.
“Businesses are ready and waiting, and anxious to open their doors.”
Next week, the distance restriction on exercise extends from 5km to 20km, or any distance within a person’s own county boundaries. Small groups of people will be allowed to visit the homes of those cocooning, as long as social distancing is observed.
Groups of up to six people will be able to interact with each other indoors or outdoors, as long as they keep two metres apart.
Up to 25 people will be allowed to attend funerals of loved ones, and public libraries will commence re-opening.
There is to be a phased reintroduction of visiting at nursing homes, starting on June 15 in homes that put in place required protocols.
Shops will also provide dedicated hours for those who are over 70, or in an at-risk group.
Phase three is scheduled for June 29, when hotels and other parts of the domestic tourism sector can reopen. All travel restrictions within Ireland will also lift on that date. Pubs will also be able to reopen, but only if they are functioning as restaurants and serving food.
Phase four, which will contain all remaining measures in the road map, is planned for July 20.
The Taoiseach said that hairdressers, barbers and nail bars will remain shut until the final phase.
The Taoiseach said restrictions on large gatherings would continue into the autumn.
The coronavirus death toll in Ireland rose to 1,670 on Friday, after a further seven deaths were announced.
The Taoiseach hailed the Irish public’s adherence to the restrictions during lockdown.
“Over the last few months fear has exerted a kind of gravity pulling us down, but now we find there is hope lifting us up again,” he said.
“During this emergency we have suffered as a country, lost loved ones, and changed the way that we work and live.
“We are making progress. We are heading in the right direction.”
Later, at the daily Covid-19 media briefing, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said that, as Ireland progressed through the phases, more focus would shift to individual responsibility to comply with remaining restrictions. relaxations.
“If people want to find loopholes in it and ways of doing things or just simply ignore it it’s difficult for us to stop,” he said.
“The majority of people are with us and want to stay with us for their own protection and for the protection of their families and for the protection of the community.
“And so I think for that reason people in significant numbers aren’t going to use these kinds of opportunities in that way.”
Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar said no date has been confirmed to resume non-essential air travel.
He added: “I would encourage people not to go booking flights just yet, that would be premature.”
The Cabinet made the decisions after receiving advice from experts on the National Public Health Emergency Team, which Dr Holohan chairs. Mr Varadkar said ministers had also considered Government reports on the economic and social impact of Covid-19.