Phase 3 of the Government's plan to reopen businesses and society is to move ahead on June 29, the Government has announced during what is likely to be its last press conference.
Almost all businesses and amenities that have not already reopened, will be allowed to do so from next Monday. This includes hairdressers, beauticians, gyms and leisure centres.
However in light of the expected increase in the number of people using public transport, and to allow capacity to increase, it will be mandatory for people to wear face coverings when travelling by bus, rail or Luas.
According to the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, there will be a sanction for people who fail to comply with this. However, he was not able to provide details on how this will be enforced or what the sanction will be.
"My department will be taking instruction from the Department of Transport in terms of how they see this working. We will be engaging with them with the hope that we would be in a position to regulate over the next week to 10 days," he said.
The Government has also announced that travel restrictions between Ireland and some other countries will be eased from July 9. A ‘green list' will be drawn up at EU level, which will allow quarantine-free travel between certain countries.
"If you are flying or going by boat between these countries, the 14-day quarantine will not apply. Also, we will be stepping up checks and controls in the airport," the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, explained.
However, the Government warned that this ‘green list' will be reviewed regularly and will be subject to change as situations in various countries change.
"The reduction that we have seen in the incidence of the disease in this country hasn't been matched by many of the countries across Europe. In fact, when we look at the 14-day incidence across Europe, there are 11 countries that over the last 14 days have disimproved relative to where it was, so it's a very dynamic situation," explained the Department of Health's chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan.
Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar thanked everyone who has played a role in the suppression of the virus over the last number of months, particularly healthcare staff, "who day after day put other people first".
He said that the choices and the actions of people in Ireland "changed the destiny of our country and saved us from the worst".
Acknowledging that this is probably his last press conference as Taoiseach, Mr Varadkar ended by thanking everyone "who kept our country protected and guided through this emergency".
"Until now we needed some hope to cling to, but your actions have kindled that hope and turned it into a reality. So I will end by thanking each and every one of you.
"Only you know the true weight of the burden you carried over the past few months. I know that sometimes you were able to share that burden and sometimes you had to carry it alone and I am sorry for everything you had to go through," he said.
He added that he hoped a national day of commemoration can be held in the coming months to allow the country "to mourn together as a nation and grieve for what we have lost".
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