Varadkar unveils phased reopening starting May 18

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announcing the phased re-opening of the Irish economy, and broader Irish society. RTE screenshot.


By Irish Echo Staff

It was almost like rolling out a budget, though budgets tend not to come with life and death implications.

The Irish government’s “road map” towards reopening the country amid the Covid-19 pandemic was outlined Friday evening in the Dail by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

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The date that the government, and the entire country, is now focused on is May 18.

According to a reports in multiple Irish new outlets, and here specifically the Irish Times, the current restrictions on social and economic life will be maintained for a further fortnight, and will be eased in stages from May 18, Varadkar announced.

“We need two more weeks, Mr. Varadkar said. This to effectively control the spread of the virus.

He warned that opening up the lockdown now could result in the country going “back to square one.”

Varadkar, according to the Times report, announced two minor changes to the current restrictions – the 2 kilometer travel from home limit will be extended to 5K and people over 70 will now be told that they can leave their homes, but only if they avoid all contact with other people. Otherwise, all restrictions will remain in place.

Mr Varadkar said that on May 18, should progress in containing the virus continue in the intervening two weeks, the restrictions will be eased in a series of five stages, three weeks apart.

On that date, some retail outlets such as garden centers and DIY centers will be allowed open; some outdoor sports will be allowed, and small groups of family and friends will be permitted to meet in the open.

In later phases, other businesses will be allowed re-open. Larger funerals will be allowed. Schools and colleges will re-open in September and October at the beginning of the next academic year. Cafes and restaurants will reopen on June 29, and pubs will reopen on August 10.

In a televised address, Mr Varadkar said thousands of lives had been saved “because of the sacrifices and choice you have made.”

He stated: “When we come through this, we will come together as a nation and grieve for everyone who has died over the course of this emergency.”

But he warned that the phases of re-opening the country may have to be reversed if the rate of the infection increases significantly as the lockdown is eased.

“We need two more weeks of tight restrictions,” Mr Varadkar said, this so the virus does not have a chance to make a “comeback.”

The curve had been flattened but “we have not yet won this fight,” he said.

“I know for me the worst part has been the daily text message I receive at around 5 o’clock every evening of the number of deaths, and number of new cases,” the taoiseach said.

“I yearn for the day it stops.”

The government, according to the Times report, may speed up the reopening plan if Covid cases continue to fall.

The phased reopening applies only to the Republic of Ireland as Northern Ireland is dealing with Covid-19 in its own way and largely in accordance with British government stipulations. The British government is reportedly preparing to unveil its own phased reopening plan sometime next week.