EXPLAINER: Will Phase 2 of lifting Covid-19 restrictions happen on June 8?
When Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the government's roadmap for re-opening the country and the economy, he warned that the phases were not guaranteed to run on the dates specified.
The roadmap depends on the behaviour of the virus and if the country experiences an unmanageable spike at any stage, a phase of re-opening could be delayed. We could even move back a phase, if necessary, he warned.
Phase 1 of re-opening, which saw builders go back to work and some retailers like hardware shops re-open, came into effect on May 18, almost two weeks ago.
CMO Tony Holohan says recommendations made by NPHET depend on the spread of virus between phases. So, will restrictions be eased further through Phase 2 of re-opening next week? It is due to happen on June 8.
The good news is the metrics used by the CMO and the government to track the virus are all stable or declining, including deaths, new cases, hospital and ICU admissions.
Chair of the NPHET Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group, Professor Philip Nolan, gave an update on his modelling work on Thursday evening and described the current situation with the virus as "astonishingly stable" at the moment.
"I think it's fair to say almost everything we've seen from my perspective is astonishingly stable," he said in Thursday's press conference.
He also said that it was clear from the data and being out and about that people were still following social-distancing guidelines for the most part.
"You might expect to see more noise or disturbance in the data. Particularly walking around the city you see how responsive people are being."
Most importantly, he informed those gathered that since the easing of restrictions in Phase 1 on May 18, there had not been a significant jump in cases. New case numbers have stayed low this week, almost two weeks on. He said the next week would reveal more about the impact of Phase 1.
Nine further deaths were announced on Thursday along with 46 new cases.
CMO Tony Holohan is also on the record as saying we have successfully "suppressed" coronavirus in the community but that it is not the time to get ahead of ourselves. Political pressure has been applied from some quarters to speed up the re-opening and reduce the 2m social distancing rule to 1m.
Although it appears unlikely Tony Holohan would support a significant speeding up of the re-opening process, it is looking increasingly likely that Phase 2 will commence as scheduled on June 8.
So, what are the measures in Phase 2?
Stay at home
The advice will be to still avoid unnecessary journeys wherever possible.
You will be able to travel up to 20 kilometres away from your home as opposed to the 5 kilometre limit which was in place since 5 May.
Up to 4 people may visit another household for a short period of time but everyone must keep at least 2 metres apart from people they don't live with.
Shops will provide dedicated hours for those who are cocooning (people over the age of 70 and those who are medically vulnerable) with strict social distancing and gloves made available. Shoppers should ideally wear face coverings.
Those who are cocooning can have a small number of visitors to their home. The visitors must wear gloves, face coverings and keep at least 2 metres away from the person who is cocooning.
A slightly larger number of people can be in attendance at funerals but numbers will still be restricted to immediate family and close friends and limited to a maximum number of mourners (this number will be announced closer to 8 June) for a limited period of time where social distancing can be maintained.
People who can work safely while maintaining a 2-metre distance from others
Workers, like those who work on their own, as well as other workers who can keep a 2 metre distance from others can return to work. Social distancing requirements continue to apply.
Plans to be put in place by employers and the government
Organisations are to develop plans for a return to onsite working by employees in light of COVID-19, considering:
- social distancing compliance
- hygiene and cleaning
- compliance in higher risk situations
- plans for medically vulnerable or pregnant people
- extended opening hours to enable social distancing
Remote working is to continue for all workers or businesses that can currently do so.
Shops and other commercial businesses
Shops that can reopen
Small retail outlets can reopen with a small number of staff on the basis that the retailer can control the number of individuals that staff and customers interact with at any one time.
Marts can be opened where social distancing can be maintained.
Sport, tourism and culture
Public libraries may open so long as the numbers allowed in are limited, social distancing is observed and there is strict hand-sanitising in place for anyone who goes into the library.
People can take part in outdoor sporting and fitness activities, involving team sports training in small groups (but not matches) where social distancing can be maintained and where there is no contact.