Hairdressers set to reopen on May 10th when intercounty travel will be allowed

Hotels will open doors on June 2nd with outdoor hospitality at restaurants and pubs due back June 7th

Visitors to Doheny and Nesbitt pub on Baggott Street Lower in Dublin in October 2020. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Visitors to Doheny and Nesbitt pub on Baggott Street Lower in Dublin in October 2020. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

 

The Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19 agreed late on Wednesday night to lift the ban on intercountry travel from May 10th, it has emerged.

Hairdressers and personal services look set to resume business on the same date, with gyms and swimming pools reopening on June 7th.

Non-essential retail, including click and collect, will begin a phased return the week starting May 10th ahead of a wider reopening of business on the 17th.

Outdoor hospitality including restaurants and pubs will resume on June 7th, it is understood.

Hotels will reopen on June 2nd, and indoor dining is expected to be allowed.

Under the proposals to be rubber-stamped by Ministers, households will be allowed to meet in groups of six people outdoors - including in private gardens - from May 10th.

The proposals will go to Cabinet on Thursday morning.

Earlier it emerged that hotels would reopen just before the June bank holiday, to allow trade for that weekend.

The Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19 completed its meeting on easing restrictions in Government Buildings shortly before 11pm Wednesday night.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), which met earlier on Wednesday, had recommended hotels and guest houses should reopen no sooner than June 7th.

Later, Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, other Ministers and senior officials met in Government Buildings.

The requirement of the so-called “€9 meal” for pubs is expected to be abolished and the 15-person limit for outdoor dining rule may also be scrapped.

The State’s public health team earlier gave the green light to a faster than expected easing of restrictions from May 10th onwards.

The sub-committee’s recommendations will go to a full Cabinet meeting, which is expected to convene on Thursday.

Groups of three households, or a group of six people from any number of households, may be allowed to meet anywhere outside - including private gardens - after May 10th.

There will be no indoor dining in the months of May and June, under the proposals examined by politicians.

Some time from May 10th onwards, on a date to be set soon, 50 people will be allowed to attend religious services, including Mass, church weddings and funerals.

However, for wedding receptions afterwards, six can attend indoors in May and 15 outdoors. This will likely rise to 25 in June, sources say.

Public transport will see capacity increased to 50 per cent on May 10th, although Irish Rail and Dublin Bus are already returning to full schedule next Monday.

Grandparents who have been vaccinated will be able to meet indoors with grandchildren and other family members who have not been inoculated under the proposals being considered by ministers.

It is understood that people who have been vaccinated will be able to meet indoors with those from one other household who have not received a jab and are not at risk of severe illness.

A central part of the new plan will involve a so-called “vaccine dividend”, allowing vaccinated people to meet indoors at certain stages.

For those who have received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, they can meet indoors one week after their second dose. This will be two weeks for those who have received Moderna.

For those who have received Johnson and Johnson, they can meet two weeks after receiving their single shot.

And for those who have received AstraZeneca, they can meet four weeks after their first dose in what is a significant boost for this group.

Nphet gave its advice to the Government on Wednesday afternoon, with the chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan and the HSE chief Paul Reid briefing the Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19.

It is understood Ministers were told phased reopening outdoors in May and June would be low-risk, and that reopening in July onwards would depend on vaccine rollout and uptake, as well as the emerging evidence in the weeks ahead about how the B117 variant transmits.

Higher transmissibility and increased levels of disease would make further reopening of things like indoor dining more difficult until almost everyone is vacccinated.

The Taoiseach is understood to have indicated at Cabinet on Tuesday that the Government may signal an intention to reopen domestic tourism in June, but sources stressed that this is contingent on continuing suppression of the virus.

Earlier, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party on Wednesday evening that the Government must have a plan in place by the end of May for the phased return of international travel.

Sources have said that Mr Varadkar told the meeting that the aviation sector and airports needs a plan in place by then.

It is understood Mr Varadkar also said he wants to see a trial of an outdoor event such as a Leinster match similar to a recent experiment in Barcelona.

Researchers in Spain found “no sign” of higher levels of infection among people who took part in a large test concert last month in Barcelona. Six people tested positive within 14 days of attending the gig but the incidence was lower than that seen in the general population.

Mr Varadkar also rowed in behind comments made earlier by Mr Ryan that the main distinction in hospitality should be between indoor and outdoor, as opposed to between outlets that serve food or not, it is understood.

Non-contact training for adult sports teams could potentially restart towards the end of May. The resumption of driving tests is also said to be under consideration.

Hospitality

Mr Ryan has indicated that the €9 substantial meal rule in pubs will be scrapped.

Throughout the pandemic, people had to buy a meal with a value of at least €9 if they were in restaurants and pubs.

Speaking in Dublin earlier on Wednesday, Mr Ryan indicated that the distinction between gastropub and pub will not feature this summer.

“We don’t want all those systems where people would get a certain meal, it was kind of a false division. I think it will start outdoors and I don’t think it will be whether it will be divided between food or not. Outdoors or indoors will be the difference.”

When asked if this meant the end of the €9 meal, he said: “I think we have learned outdoors is safer, not whether you are having chicken nuggets on top of it.”

Mr Ryan also said the reopening of hospitality throughout June will coincide with the lifting of intercounty travel ban.

“Hopefully June will see the summer start in earnest.”

The precise date for when hospitality, inter-county travel and domestic tourism might restart may, however, prove contentious, with Nphet likely to push for it to happen after the June bank holiday, while some in Government would prefer it to encompass the public holiday.

Targets

Speaking on Shannonside FM on Wednesday morning, Mr Martin said the Government’s strategy since January had worked.

“The people have responded to it, it has been very difficult for people but the majority of people want the restrictions to work but they adhere to the restrictions, and by adhering to restrictions we have one of the lowest incidences across Europe”.

“Whatever we open, we want to keep open,” he said.

He said there would be a “comprehensive announcement” tomorrow evening, but that progress on vaccinations had opened up room for the removal of some restrictions.

He said that the Government is still “going after” its target of giving 82 per cent of the adult population a first vaccine by the end of June, but that there had been setbacks in recent weeks.

“ Now, obviously, there have been changes to the schedule, there have been delays. We’ve lost a number of weeks because of the various advices that have come in from Niac, particularly in relation to AstraZeneca”

“There will be substantial administration of vaccines this week, throughout May and throughout June,” he said, promising the country would be in a very different position at the end of June.

He conceded there would be lower deliveries of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine this month due to an issue relating to an FDA audit of one of its plants in the United States, but said deliveries of more than 600,000 by the end of the quarter were still “on track”. He said that there is no choice for people on what vaccine they receive, and that “the object is to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can”.