Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar unveiled a slow and phased five-phase roadmap for lifting COVID-19 restrictions in his island country, calling it a “journey to a new normal”.
The prime minister’s plan includes five steps to unblock restrictions, three weeks apart, starting May 18 and will run through most of the summer until mid-August.
“As a nation, our physical health has been attacked, our mental health eroded, our economy battered and our society put to the test,” Varadkar said in a national speech, adding that the stories of hardship formed a “fabric of struggle and sacrifice and sorrow.
After being defeated in the last general election, Varadkar resigned his post as taoiseach in February after the Irish parliament found itself at a stalemate in choosing a new prime minister. He is currently Acting Prime Minister.
More recently, however, Varadkar has seen its popularity rise to go beyond its handling of the coronavirus crisis, polls suggest. A doctor by training, the Prime Minister has re-registered as a doctor and has pledged to work a hospital shift per week for the foreseeable future.
With a population of just under five million, Ireland has confirmed more than 21,000 positive cases and more than 1,300 deaths from COVID-19.
COVID-19 restrictions have been aggressive on the Emerald Isle. As of last Tuesday, the Irish have been allowed to walk up to five kilometers (3.1 miles) from their homes to exercise. Previously, people were limited to staying within two kilometers of their homes.
At the moment there is no céad mille fáilte (one hundred thousand welcomes) for potential visitors arriving in Ireland. With the exception of persons from Northern Ireland, all travelers entering Ireland must isolate for a period of 14 days.
But for those wondering how long it might be safe to plan an Ireland getaway, Varadkar’s roadmap suggests this summer could be pushing the boundaries again.
Bear in mind that Irish restaurants won’t reopen until the end of June. Hotels, museums and galleries will resume their activities until July 20 and pubs will remain closed until August 10.
Here are some of the key steps that would impact visitors:
From May 18, the first phase will allow outside workers to return to work and certain retail outlets such as garden centers to reopen. Some sports and fitness activities in small groups will be permitted. People will be able to meet up to four friends and family from other households outdoors, while maintaining social distancing.
From June 8, the second phase will allow the opening of small points of sale and markets where social distancing can be maintained. People can visit other households. Public libraries will reopen.
On June 29, phase three begins. VSafés and sit-down restaurants can reopen where social distancing can be maintained. Non-essential outlets with street level entrances and exits may open. The playgrounds will reopen. Small social gatherings can resume.
With the start of phase four on July 20, the tourism industry can finally start to reopen. Hotels and hostels may open, although initially on a limited occupancy basis. Museums, galleries and places of worship may reopen. Fancy a haircut or a tattoo? HHigher risk services that require direct human contact can finally resume.
The fifth and final phase begins on August 10. On that date, pubs across the country can reopen and large social gatherings can resume.
Varadkar has warned the Irish people that “we have yet to win this fight” and said the country would have to revert to tighter restrictions if the virus rebounds.