Phase 1 of the Government's Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business is set to go ahead this Monday (May 18), the Taoiseach has confirmed.
Leo Varadkar said on foot of advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), it is safe to proceed with an easing of restrictions after the weekend.
"This gives us reason to hope, but it is not a cause for celebration. We have a long way to go yet. There will be bumps in the road and we have to keep our guard up," the Taoiseach insisted.
He emphasised that "everything is provisional and reversible".
"Our progress depends on us all continuing to do what we have been doing. As the restrictions ease and we come into contact with more people, the opportunity for the virus to spread increases. So, self-discipline and personal responsibility will become more important, not less," he explained.
He said that the message continues to be 'stay at home', except in the following cases:
-To go to work if your workplace is open and you cannot work from home
-To shop for items you need
-To exercise within 5km of your home
-For medical reasons or to care for others
-To meet friends or family outdoors, in groups of no more than four, and while maintaining social distancing.
Phase 1 will also see the reopening of more stores and businesses, such as hardware stores, garden centres, farmers markets, opticians, electrical retailers and motorbike/bicycle repair shops, while outdoor workers, such as construction workers and gardeners, can return to work. However social distancing must be maintained.
Outdoor sports facilities, such as golf courses and pitches can also open, and people may practice sport or fitness activities in groups of up to four people, but they must practice social distancing, minimise contact, not share equipment and practice strict hygiene.
Outdoor public amenities and tourism sites, such as beaches, parks and mountain walks will also reopen on the 18th.
The Government is advising the wearing of face coverings on public transport and in enclosed public areas, such as shops.
However, this is only advised for people over the age of 13 and is not a legal requirement. For guidance on the safe use of face coverings, click here.
"In three weeks time, on Friday, June 5, I fervently hope to be here to announce that we will move to phase 2 and 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," the Taoiseach said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health has also confirmed that a further 16 people with COVID-19 have died in the Republic.
Four deaths that were previously classed as COVID-related have been denotified, so the number of deaths here stands at 1,518.
Another 129 cases of the virus have also been confirmed, bringing the total number of cases here to 23,956.
COVID-19 is spread through close contact with an infected person's body fluids (e.g. droplets from coughing or sneezing), or by touching surfaces that an infected person has coughed or sneezed on. It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of the virus to show. These may include a fever, a persistent cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
COVID-19 can also cause more severe illnesses, including pneumonia and severe breathing difficulties. Some 80% of cases will be mild to moderate, 14% will be more severe, while 6% will be critical.
The current restrictions in relation to COVID-19 are now in place until May 18. As part of these restrictions, everybody is asked to stay at home, except in specific circumstances. These include:
-Travelling to and from work in circumstances where the work is an essential health, social care or other essential service that cannot be done from home
-To shop for essential food and household goods
-To attend medical appointments
-For vital family reasons, such as caring for children or elderly people
-To take brief individual exercise within your locality, which may include children from your household, however this should be within 5km of your home.
All public and private gatherings of any number of people outside a single household or living unit are prohibited.
Those over the age of 70 and medically vulnerable people continue to be cocooned, however since May 5, those over the age of 70 can leave their home for exercise, as long as they stay within 5km of their home and socially distance themselves from everybody.
ALONE, the organisation that supports older people to age at home, is running a national support line for older people facing difficulties due to COVID-19. The support line is open every day from 8am to 8pm, call 0818 222 024.
For more information on COVID-19, click here.
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