Government announces phased easing of public health restrictions

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Visualization of the coronavirus causing COVID-19
Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

In line with the plan set out in COVID-19 Resilience & Recovery 2021: The Path Ahead, the Government has today announced the phased easing of some restrictions for the month of April, to commence on 12th April.

After taking full account of the current status of Covid-19 in the community, and the public health advice, the Government has decided to implement a limited phased easing of restrictions for the month of April. This cautious approach will continue until a substantial level of vaccination has been achieved, at which point we will move to reopen our society more widely.

While the vaccine programme continues to be scaled up, people are encouraged to stay local and to continue to choose outdoor options over indoor options where possible.

The vaccination programme has entered its second phase, seeing a significant increase in the scale and speed of vaccinations. However, the Government believes that a widespread lifting of restrictions at this point – in advance of further substantial vaccination – would lead to unacceptable increases in infections, hospitalisations and deaths – and thus the very real prospect of having to reintroduce restrictions.

The month of April

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The following phased easing of restrictions will begin on 12 April and continue through the month:

  • Full return to in-school teaching.
  • Two households can meet up with one another outdoors for social and recreational purposes (this does not include private gardens). Any meetings outdoors should be safe with continued practicing of social distancing and other safe behaviours. Masks should be worn in crowded outdoor spaces.
  • Travel restrictions will be relaxed to enable travel within own county or within 20km of residence if crossing county boundaries.
  • Construction:

– All residential construction projects can recommence.

– Early Learning and Childcare and school aged childcare services will be added to list of essential services for construction activity during these restrictions to align with the current exemption to primary and secondary schools (where school building projects are progressing) and to allow important fire safety works to progress.

From 19 April:

Expansion of elite sports to include:

  • training for and playing of National Governing Body sanctioned and organised adult intercounty National Gaelic Games Leagues, not including under 20 or minor competitions.
  • certain high performing athletes as approved by Sport Ireland, in a range of sports.

 

From 26 April (subject to prevailing public health situation):

  • Outdoor sports facilities can reopen (e.g. pitches, golf courses and tennis courts, other facilities as appropriate). See notes to editors for further details.
  • Outdoor visitor attractions can reopen (i.e. zoos, open pet farms, heritage sites). Amusement parks are not permitted to open. See notes to editors for further details.
  • Underage non-contact outdoor training in pods of 15 can recommence for all exercise activities that can be delivered outdoors including dance.
  • Maximum attendance at funerals will increase to 25 on compassionate grounds. Linked gatherings should not take place before or after funeral services.

Vaccine Bonus for those fully vaccinated

  • Current guidance for those most vulnerable to the severe impacts of COVID-19 – the over 70s and the medically vulnerable – will be aligned with that for the general population (e.g. regarding use of public transport, going to shops etc)
  • Those who have the full protection of the vaccine may visit indoors with one other household who also has full protection. See notes to editors for further details.

The restrictions that are currently in place continue to have a considerable impact on the social and economic wellbeing of the community. However the vaccination programme gives us a pathway to a return to economic and social activity.

In the meantime Government’s community support, well-being programmes, employment and business supports continue, with the EWSS, PUP and Covid-19 enhanced illness benefit applicable to June 30th.

The measures announced today will continue up to the 4th of May, at which point the following areas will be under consideration:

  • Full re-opening of construction activity.
  • Phased return of non-essential retail commencing with click and collect and outdoor retail i.e. garden centres/nurseries.
  • Recommencement of Personal Services on a staggered basis.
  • Re-opening of Museums, Galleries & Libraries
  • Recommencement of religious services on a staggered basis