Ireland to reopen but 'extreme vigilance' needed: Government approves first phase of easing restriction

Ireland to reopen but 'extreme vigilance' needed: Government approves first phase of easing restriction
Photograph: Leon Farrell / Photocall Ireland

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed the country will begin reopening on Monday  The Government, on the advice of National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), say it is safe to proceed with phase one of the roadmap.

The Taoiseach said that the announcement is not cause for celebration.

"We have a long way to go and we have to keep our guard up," he added.

"The next review will take pace on June 5. We need to keep following these guidelines.

"Our progress depends on all of us doing what we have been doing.

"As we come into contact with more people the opportunity for the virus to spread increases.

"To go to work if your workplace is open, to shop for items you need and exercise within 5km of home, for medical reasons and to meet friends or family."

A woman wears a face mask to protect herself from Covid-19 as she shops in SuperValu, Clonakilty. Picture: Andy Gibson
A woman wears a face mask to protect herself from Covid-19 as she shops in SuperValu, Clonakilty. Picture: Andy Gibson

Mr Varadkar has urged the public to wear face coverings when on public transport and in enclosed spaces.

"The only thing that is inevitable is the spread of the virus if we don't push it back," he added.

"We are bound together in this great national effort and we must rely on each other."

Mr Varadkar said from Monday, the public will be able to meet small groups of four people outside while keeping two metres apart.

"Some mainly in outdoor work will be able to start work again, for example construction work, gardeners and people tending to allotments," he added.

"Some more stores will reopen and you will be able to shop again in garden centres, hardware stores, and farmers' markets, or get your eyes tested or your car, motorbike or bicycle fixed.

"As part of your daily exercise you will be able to play a game of tennis, or a round of golf, exercise and fitness classes outdoors in small groups of up to four people, once you don't travel beyond 5km to do so.

"Some public amenities such as public beaches and mountain walks will reopen.

"In every single case it is vital that we maintain a physical distance of 2 metres."

Mr Varadkar added: "In three weeks' time, on Friday, 5 June, I fervently hope to be here to announce that we will move to Phase Two. A further relaxation of restrictions.

"This depends on the progress we make between now and then. Nothing is guaranteed.

"The only thing that is inevitable is the spread of the virus unless we push it back every day.

"Coronavirus is a fire in retreat, but it is not defeated. We must extinguish every spark, quench every ember.

"We are all bound together in this great national effort and we must rely on each other if we are to succeed."

The Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys said almost the entire workforce in the accommodation and food sector are on Government wage supports. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland
The Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys said almost the entire workforce in the accommodation and food sector are on Government wage supports. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Business Minister Heather Humphreys announced a new scheme providing grants of up to 10,000 euro to small businesses looking to reopen while adhering to new public health safety requirements.

She said almost the entire workforce in the accommodation and food sector are on Government wage supports.

She said the new scheme will be available to businesses with a turnover of less than 5 million euro and have a workforce of fewer than 50 people.

Speaking at a press conference in Government Buildings on Friday she said with some businesses reopening on Monday, the safety of workers will be kept in mind.

She said the Health and Safety Authority will work with businesses collaboratively but if they do not comply with new safety protocols, the Health and Safety Authority has the power to take enforcement action up to closing businesses.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said: "In the face of great challenge the control you are showing has prevented a catastrophe.

"We are so grateful for all you have done. We also know that many lives have been lost and much pain endured.

"Each phase of our experience requires us to embrace new and unfamiliar ways to stay safe.

"We are asking some more of you to stay at home, stay at a safe distance.

"We are also asking you to help us as we take the first step to a new normal.

"We are going slowly knowing this is the safest way to go forward."

Mr Harris said: "We have to remember we do these things accompanied by risk and we have to act accordingly.

"The opening of the garden centre isn't the danger, it's what we all decide to do in terms of how we behave when we go to these places.

"We have to remember that our actions could set us back.

"We move forward with great faith in what Irish people can achieve.

"We ask you to continue to trust us. We are asking you to stay safe and hold firm."

Business Minister Heather Humphreys said the national return to work protocol will support businesses and workers across all sectors to return safely to work.

"The protocols apply to all workplaces and is a key component in the Government's road map for re-opening society and the economy."

"You also have to be able to apply the protocol before you can reopen. Many businesses have been working hard to apply the guidelines ahead of Monday."

Chief medical officer Tony Holohan said the country has helped drive the infection down.

"It's now even more important for the personal behaviours that has been adopted by Irish people to keep going," he added.

"The more we move through this phase it will become more important to protect ourselves and our families from this virus.

"We will keep monitoring the court of compliance in terms of our behaviour in the population and all the other parameters."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it will not be a legal requirement for people to wear a face covering.

"We will be asking to wear them in busy enclosed spaces like a shop but it is not going to be a legal requirement. The reason for that is that all the science around it indicates it may be beneficial, it is not a substitute for washing your hands properly and social distancing," he said.

He said videos will be made available so that people can learn to make them at home and how to wear them.

Health Minister Simon Harris said under-13s will not be asked to wear them.

Chief medical officer Tony Holohan said face coverings "are not magic shields".

"Hand washing has to be maintained - we don't want the message to get out that people do not have to wash their hands or social distance."

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