Ireland's exit from lockdown accelerated: Extra measures get green light from Monday  

Ireland's exit from lockdown accelerated: Extra measures get green light from Monday  
Photo Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

The Irish Government has announced an acceleration of the country's lockdown exit plan.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said phase two of the roadmap would be triggered on Monday as scheduled.

But he said a series of other measures, originally envisaged for later phases of the plan, would also be given the green light from next week.

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.

From Monday, all retail outlets will reopen with staggered hours and the distance restriction on exercise has been extended from 5km to 20k, or any distance within a person's own county boundaries.

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.

Groups of up to 15 will be able to meet for outdoor sporting activities and elite athletes can resume training.

Up to 25 people will be allowed to attend funerals of loved ones and public libraries will commence re-opening.

The Government has also announced a series of additional measures for children and older people, with plans for phased reintroduction of visiting at nursing homes and permission for playgroups and summer camps to operate.

Playgrounds will also reopen.

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 tourism accommodation can reopen.

All travel restrictions 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 roadmap, is planned for July 20.

Mr Varadkar said that hairdressers, barbers and nail bars will remain shut until the final phase.

"Everyone would really like to see them open as soon as possible but as of now that remain in phase four and that is for very good reason," he added.

The Taoiseach said restrictions on large gatherings would continue into the autumn.

Mr Varadkar made the announcement in an address to the nation on Friday afternoon.

He described the measures being introduced on Monday as "phase two plus".

"I've always said we would accelerate the reopening our country but only if it was safe to do so," he said.

"Thanks to your actions we have now reached that point.

"And with your help, we'll keep moving forward.

"So we all need to stick to what we've been doing right."

The coronavirus death toll in Ireland rose to 1,664 on Thursday, after a further five deaths were announced.

There were 38 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, taking the total since the outbreak began to 25,142.

Mr Varadkar said he had informed the leaders of the Northern Ireland Executive about the plans before making them public.

The Taoiseach hailed the Irish public's adherence to the restrictions during lockdown.

"Thanks to your perseverance in pushing back Covid-19, I am announcing an acceleration of the roadmap," he said.

"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.

"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.

"And we have earned the right to be hopeful about the future again."

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.

Mr Varadkar said ministers had also considered Government reports on the economic and social impact of Covid-19.

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