The end of the pandemic is within reach if the country can remain vigilant and “continue to make the right choices,” Taoiseach Micheál Martin said Friday evening.
Speaking to the nation in government buildings, Martin said that “after the trauma of the past 15 months, we are finally taking concrete steps to once again enjoy normal time with our friends and loved ones.”
Announcing the widespread reopening of the economy and society, Mr Martin said, “We are almost back to a point where we can just enjoy the ordinary extraordinary times in our lives.”
“The feeling of hope, excitement and relief is palpable. But as we look at what’s going on around the world, of course we know we need to stay vigilant against this terrible virus. We know there were many twists and turns in this trip.
“I have spoken time and time again about the strength and solidarity found and how managing the pandemic must be a collective effort. The coming month could be the most important test of that spirit that we have faced since the start of this ordeal. “
“If we continue to care about each other, if we continue to make the right choices, be vigilant, take our vaccine in turn, if we continue to do all of these things, the end is within our grasp,” at- he mentioned.
Mr Martin called on the public to continue to be cautious and “trust the science”. He said that although the government’s approach has been cautious, “the strategy is working”.
The vaccination portal will now be open to everyone over 40 next week, he confirmed.
In addition, the vaccination rate is exceptionally high in different age groups.
“In all respects, the Irish trust vaccines. In fact, our country enjoys one of the highest levels of vaccine confidence in the world.
“Almost 100% of our citizens over 70 are now fully vaccinated. It is unmatched in the European Union. This strategy works. “
“Now the challenge is to keep moving forward, safely, remembering at all times our determination to ensure that when we reopen every part of our society and our economy, it will remain open.”
It is understood that Health Minister Stephen Donnelly told Cabinet earlier on Friday that the government was going to lower its vaccination target. 82% of adults were expected to receive at least one vaccine by the end of June. This will now be revised to mid-70 percent, it is understood.
Speaking at a briefing following Mr Martin’s announcement, the three government leaders highlighted the high volume of vaccinations, which were continuing at a rate of 300,000 per week.
Mr Varadkar said 2.5 million people will be fully vaccinated by the end of July, according to projections by the high-level working group on Covid-19 vaccination.
“We are going to spend 20% now [at the end of May] to 60% of the adult population at the end of July. It is a difficult goal to achieve, but one that we believe we can achieve, ”he said.
Restaurants, bars, hotels and events
From July 5, indoor service will resume in restaurants and bars.
The Taoiseach has confirmed that from June 2 hotels and guesthouses will reopen and from June 7 outdoor hospitality will resume.
Regarding restaurants, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said he understood where the Restaurant Association came from with its challenge, but the government’s rationale had always been a gradual reopening. This approach, he said, meant it was about eating out first, then eating inside.
“They point out the anomaly that hotels are allowed to serve residents in dining rooms, but this has always been the case even at level 5. We have never forced people to have their meals in their rooms. “
He said restaurants and bars, even if they were open for al fresco dining throughout June, would still receive the weekly payment from the Covid Restriction Support Program (worth a maximum of € 5,000 per week) as if they were closed.
“Then there will be a lump sum payment in July,” he said, adding that hotels would not receive these payments.
Mr Martin said that from June 7, up to 200 people could attend outdoor events at venues with a minimum capacity of 5,000 people and 100 could attend other outdoor events. Cinema and theaters may also reopen.
In view of the road safety concerns, the theoretical tests would start again. There will also be a gradual reopening of driver examination centers.
“I really want to stress a key point. Continued progress is not inevitable. Change brings risks. We still have a way to go with our vaccination program and we are monitoring the impact of the new variants, especially the Indian variant B1617, on the spread of the virus very closely. But provided that we continue to make progress, we will move on to the next phase of reopening, ”he said.
Indoor events will resume from July 5 with a maximum of 100 participants in large venues and 50 in all others.
“We will see a further increase in the number of participants in outdoor events, indoor exercises and sports activities will return and there will be more relaxation during visits to private homes, and up to 50 guests will be able to attend. wedding receptions, ”said Martin. .
In addition, from August 5, the number of participants in indoor events will increase further with 200 in large venues and 100 in all others.
The 50% restriction on public transport capacity will be lifted and up to 100 guests will be able to attend weddings.
“Our direction of travel is clear and very positive. To continue in this direction, it is important that we all adhere to public health guidelines and make meaningful personal decisions. “
Throughout June and July, test matches and concerts will take place across the country.
The Firm has also agreed to allow fans to attend a number of sporting and musical events throughout the summer. These include the Leinster v Dragons rugby match on RDS on June 11.
Fans can also catch another match, Shamrock Rovers v Finn Harps, on the same day, as well as the Cork City v Cabinteely match. The Liberty Insurance Camogie League final at Croke Park on June 20 may also have fans in the stadium.
Spectators could also be in attendance at the Irish Senior Life Health National Championships on June 26 and the Shamrock Rovers vs Drogheda match on June 25. Spectators can also watch the races at the Curragh.
The government’s plan for the outdoor concerts is as follows: an outdoor music festival in Phoenix Park on June 26, fully seated with 3,500 attendees. An outdoor musical event on June 10 in Iveagh Gardens organized by the National Concert Hall with 500 people in attendance. Outside of Dublin, two more music events are scheduled for June 26 at the INEC Club in Killarney, which will be a fully seated musical performance with 200 people.
Starting June 7, a maximum of 100 people will be able to attend matches of up to 200 in venues that can accommodate 5,000 people or more.
This will increase from July 5 to 200 during matches or to 500 people where there is a capacity of 5,000 people or more.
As of August, up to 500 spectators can watch matches, or in larger venues, 5,000 or 25% of capacity, whichever is smaller.
Mr Donnelly said Cabinet was considering “very carefully” how to facilitate travel between Ireland and Britain.
Regarding international travel, Mr. Martin said: “I understand the pent-up desire of so many people to take a break abroad or to welcome friends and family from abroad. But I also understand very clearly the need to get it right and to ensure that we restore international travel in a safe and sustainable manner.
“At my last meeting with European leaders last week, we confirmed our support for the European Union’s Covid-19 digital certificate for travel within the European Union. Today, in government, we have agreed to fully implement this program from July 19. This will facilitate the return to international travel in accordance with clear security protocols. “
From July 5, up to three households can reunite with another household regardless of vaccination status.
Passengers will be allowed to travel throughout the EU without being subject to the mandatory hotel quarantine upon their return from July 19.
Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said in a briefing after Mr Martin’s announcement that although there are different regimes for travel from the US and UK to the laissez-passer system digital switch from the EU, “the same general approach will apply”.
Mr Ryan said non-essential travel will reopen from the US and UK when flights to EU states start reopening in mid-July.
Mr Ryan said the two countries would become designated third countries and said the UK was “a very close and important neighbor to us”.
The minister was speaking at a press conference in government buildings on Cabinet’s decision to reopen the company over the summer.
He said concerns have been expressed in Britain over the worrisome variants (the Indian variant) which are the dominant strain there.
“We will demand that people arriving from Britain self-quarantine at home unless they have been fully vaccinated. We will keep this under review and hopefully later in the summer we can further open up the common travel space that we have the privilege of sharing with the UK. “
He said the mandatory hotel quarantine would be maintained for what he said was a very small number of countries. Mr Ryan also confirmed that children traveling abroad with their parents would need a PCR test in order to obtain a digital certificate.
“It will only be used in connection with variants of concern,” he said.
Work at home
Mr Varadkar said the national economic recovery plan announced next week, including € 900 million in EU funding, would help “to ensure that as many businesses as possible survive the coming period. “.
He said that when it comes to some businesses in the events industry, including nightclubs, he understood they would be disappointed that they had not yet been allowed to reopen. “They will not be forgotten,” he said.
He said 25,000 people quit pandemic unemployment payments over the past week and people have returned to work in droves. He said any withdrawal from the PUP would be gradual.
Responding to a question from The Irish Times, the Taoiseach confirmed that public health advice for people working from home had not changed.
“Public health boards strongly believe that people work from home where possible. This advice is stronger than ever. “