‘Hope, excitement and relief’ as Ireland prepares for extensive reopening

The Taoiseach said the sense of “hope, excitement and relief” is palpable as he confirmed the widespread reopening of the country over the summer.

Micheal Martin said that while the end of the pandemic is “within our grasp”, he urged the public to “remain vigilant against the terrible virus”.

As Mr Martin unveiled the Government’s plans over June, July and August, he said that the reopening of society and the economy will depend on Irish people following the guidelines in place.

Speaking at Government Buildings in Dublin, Mr Martin confirmed that on June 2, hotels, B&Bs, guesthouses and self-catering accommodation will reopen.

On June 7, outdoor services in bars and restaurants will reopen along with cinemas and theatres.

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On the same date, up to 200 people can attend outdoor events in venues with a minimum capacity of 5000, and up to 100 can attend other outdoor events.

Driver theory test services and an incremental reopening of Driver Test Centres will also reopen.

There will also be a number of pilot sporting and cultural events taking place in June and early July, to test the logistical requirements for further reopening.

From July 5, indoor hospitality will reopen while indoor events will recommence, with a maximum of 100 attendees in larger venues and 50 in all others.

There will be a further increase in the numbers attending outdoor events, while indoor exercise and sports activities will return.

From July 5, up to 50 guests will be able to attend wedding receptions.

From August 5, there will be a further increase in numbers attending indoor events, with 200 in larger venues and 100 in all others.

A further increase in number attending outdoor events.

The 50% capacity restriction on public transport will be lifted, and up to 100 guests will be able to attend weddings.

Mr Martin said Ireland is taking “definite steps towards enjoying normal times with friends and loved ones again”.

He said: “We are almost back to a point where we can just enjoy the ordinary, extraordinary moments in our lives. The sense of hope, excitement and relief is palpable.

“But as we watch what is happening across the globe, we, of course, know that we must remain vigilant against this terrible virus. We know there have been many twists and turns on this journey.

“I have talked many times about the strength that is found in solidarity and how managing the pandemic must be a collective effort.

“This coming month could be the most important test of that spirit that we have faced since this ordeal began.”

He added: “We all want out of the restrictions, but that will require each of us, as individuals, business owners, arts and sports officers, as friends, neighbours and family, to stick to the guidelines that are still in place for the coming period.”

The Taoiseach also confirmed that international travel with the European Union will return from July 19.

He said: “I understand the importance of our aviation and tourism sectors – international connectivity is critical to this country’s success and place in the world, and many jobs and livelihoods across the country depend on it.

“I understand the pent-up desire of very many people to have a break overseas or to welcome friends and family from abroad.

“But I also understand very clearly the need to get this right and to make sure that we restore international travel in a safe and sustainable way.

Health minister Stephen Donnelly leaving Dublin Castle (Brian Lawless/PA)
Health minister Stephen Donnelly leaving Dublin Castle (Brian Lawless/PA)

“At my most recent meeting with European leaders last week, we confirmed our support for EU digital Covid certificates for travel within the EU. Today at Government we agreed to fully operate that scheme from July 19.

“This will facilitate a return to international travel in accordance with clear safety protocols.”

The announcement comes after the Cabinet agreed the raft of plans to reopen society and the economy.

Transport Minister, Eamon Ryan, said that while there will be a “significant reopening” of society in the next two months, he warned the public to be careful.

Speaking to the media as he left Cabinet, Mr Ryan told the PA news agency: “We still have to be careful, I’ll be honest.

“The risk is low to medium, that’s the way the health officials put it.

“That’s always in the back of my mind, you have to be careful.

“Every week there’s another 200,000 to 300,000 people getting their first vaccine or second vaccine, that will give us protection.

“But we still only have about half the adult population have got their first one and about 20% will have got their second one by the end of this week.

Coronavirus – Fri May 28, 2021
Higher Education Minister Simon Harris leaving Dublin Castle following a Cabinet meeting (Brian Lawless/PA)

“That’s great but the higher that goes, the safer we are, so I’m still on the cautious side.

“It is a significant reopening, there’s no doubt about it.”

He said the Government has been assessing the threat posed by the Indian variant in recent days.

“We will set up a special group to look at it and to keep an eye on it.

“That’s the real risk, we have seen in the past that variants can change the picture, so we are going to have to be careful.

“What’s been very interesting is how stable it has been in the last three months, it’s been at that 400 level.

“The hospitalisations picked up last week but it has come back down again, and we have to keep an eye out on it.”

There were an additional 467 confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Friday, the Department of Health said.

There are currently 99 people in hospitals with the disease, of whom 38 are in intensive care units.

Daily case numbers may change due to future data review, validation and update, owing to the HSE cyber attack.