Reopening Q&A: What can I do today that I couldn’t do yesterday?

The first phase of lifting Covid-19 restrictions has started with limited changes

So what is changing today?

The Government is permitting people to have greater interaction with each other and allow certain businesses to reopen but is still encouraging people to observe physical distancing by staying two metres apart, and continue to show good cough and sneeze etiquette and to wash hands regularly for at least 20 seconds.

Are restrictions being eased on meeting people?

Yes. Up to four people, either family or friends, who don’t live together can meet but only outdoors and while keeping at least two metres apart.

So does this mean I should go ahead and meet family and friends?

Not necessarily. Public health officials are still encouraging people to say at home and try to avoid visiting family and friends during this first phase of reopening.

Does it have to be the same four people each time?

No, it can be four different people each time and there are no restrictions on where you can meet them, though the location has to be within five kilometres of all four people’s homes. Dr Cillian de Gascun, chairman of the expert advisory group to the Department of Health’s public health emergency team, has advised not to meet more than one social group of four people in a day and to restrict interactions to a small circle of family and friends for at least three weeks.


So how long are people permitted to stay together?

The advice is not to spend longer than 15 minutes in close contact with others in addition to stay at least two metres apart, but if people spend longer in each other’s company they are advised to stay away from one another.

Could I meet in someone’s back garden?

There is a risk in meeting in a back garden if visitors were to use kitchen or bathroom facilities as this could leave to a further spread of the virus. People should not use cups, glasses, plates or cutlery from another person’s home as this could transmit the virus.

Should I wear a face mask?

The Government is recommending that “face coverings” be worn in public places such as shops and on busy public transport where there is a higher risk of coming into contact with others where physical distancing of two metres cannot be observed.

How far can I go to exercise?

You are still only permitted to travel 5km from your home.

But tennis clubs and golf courses are reopening and mine are six kilometres away?

Yes, public sports amenities such as playing pitches, tennis courts and golf courses are reopening, provided they can maintain physical distancing rules, but you are still not allowed to travel to them if they are more than 5km from your home. The intention of this rule is reduce the risk of the virus spreading and that means limiting journeys.

What other sports can restart?

The Government says that outdoor sporting and fitness activities – either individually or in groups of no more than four people – are permitted provided that social distancing can be maintained and there is no physical contact between the four people.

What other public sites are open?

Car parks, beaches and mountain walks are reopening but again only if physical distancing can be observed and you can only travel to them if they are 5km from your home.

What businesses are reopening?

Construction workers can return to building sites and other outdoor workers such as gardeners can start work again but only if it is safe to do so with observed physical distancing and personal protective equipment if required.

What shops can reopen?

The retailers that can reopen are hardware – but not homeware – shops; farmers’ markets; builders’ merchants and those that provide essential supplies and tools for gardeners; farming and agriculture; opticians, optometrists and outlets providing hearing tests and selling hearing aids; retailers selling, supplying and repairing motor vehicles, motorcycles and bicycles and related facilities, including tyre sales and repairs; office products and services; electrical, IT and phone sales, repairs and maintenance services for home.

Can schools and colleges reopen?

Not for students. They may reopen for teachers and staff but only for remote learning to allow them to distribute learning materials, related materials and essential administration.

Can I travel overseas in this phase of reopening?

The Government says that any non-essential overseas travel should be avoided. If you do travel overseas, you will be forced to self-isolate for 14 days on your return home.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times