The Taoiseach has said people will be able to “enjoy much greater freedom later in the summer.”
Addressing the nation outside Government Buildings this evening, Micheál Martin outlined a range of upcoming changes to coronavirus restrictions.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin gives an update on coronavirus restrictions https://t.co/qDh0dK4kWR
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He confirmed that people will be allowed to travel within their own counties from April 12th.
From the same date, residential construction will resume, all children will return to school and two households will be allowed to meet up outdoors.
Meanwhile, two vaccinated people will be allowed to meet indoors.
On April 19th, Inter-county GAA training will resume alongside some high-performance athlete training.
Then, on April 26th, golf and tennis will return alongside underage outdoor sports training.
On the same date, the number of mourners allowed to attend funerals will increase to 25 and outdoor visitor attractions and zoos will reopen.
In his speech, the Taoiseach said the UK variant of the disease, which has been dominant in Ireland since January, is a "very different beast" to the virus we faced at the beginning of the pandemic.
“The so-called UK or B-117 variant is essentially a new virus,” he said. “It is more transmissible and it is significantly more dangerous.
“The reality of the B-117 variant is that if it is given any space at all, it spreads very quickly and the consequences are terrible. All across Europe now, it is causing very seriously difficulties in yet another surge.
“Health services are at crisis point, and countries and regions are reintroducing severe restrictions. We can avoid this if we move forward sensibly and safely.
“That is what we are going to do.”
The Taoiseach said that, as the vaccination programme continues, there will be opportunities for further reopening later in the summer.
“Towards the end of April, we will examine the situation and in the month of May, we will look at a phased reopening of non-essential retail, personal services, all non-contact sports training, religious services, museums galleries and libraries and additional freedoms for those who are fully vaccinated,” he said.
“Towards the end of May, and depending on progress, we will look at the reopening of hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses in the month of June."
He said the only thing that has held back Ireland’s vaccine rollout to date has been supply, noting that “supply is set to dramatically increase in April, May and June.”
He said the country will reach one million doses administered by the end of next week, reaching three million by the end of may and six million by the end of July.
“By being safe now, while significantly ramping up the vaccination programme, we will enjoy much greater freedom later in the summer,” he said.
He insisted the country is now “on the final stretch of this terrible journey.”
“This Summer, our businesses and our public services will safely reopen,” he said. “We will finally be meeting and enjoying the company of friends and family once again.
“We will be able to travel within and enjoy our beautiful country again. Jobs and livelihoods will be restored and most importantly, the worst of this awful pandemic, will be behind us.
“Steadily, and safely, let’s get through this final phase together.”
Mr Martin noted that people with underlying medical conditions and those over the age of 65 are now being vaccinated – and said the over-70s will be fully vaccinated by mid to late-May.
He said July and August will see more intensive vaccination with the vast majority of the population having “significant protection against the virus allowing for significant opportunities to reopen even further.”