Shops free to reopen, national travel allowed under biggest easing of Covid-19 restrictions

Recommendation against non-essential travel outside Ireland remains in place

A select number of Ireland’s National Cultural Institutions will reopen after the weekend, including the National Gallery, the National Library and IMMA. Video: Bryan O’Brien

Most shops and other businesses can reopen, and travel is being allowed nationally, from today, under the biggest easing of Covid-19 restrictions since the pandemic began.

Cafes and restaurants, hotels, “pubs operating as restaurants”, hairdressers, beauty salons and driving schools are among the retail services that can restart operations under this phase of the easing of restrictions, provided they put in place infection-control measures.

Galleries, museums and cinemas are also free to reopen their doors.

The public is still being asked to keep at least two metres away from others where possible, to limit the time they spend in close contact with others, and to mix outdoors rather than indoors.


Over-70s and at-risk groups are advised to stay at home “as much as possible” and to limit physical contact with other people.

People are also being asked to keep a daily log of those they meet for contact-tracing purposes.

The recommendation against non-essential travel outside Ireland remains in place in phase three of the Government's "roadmap" for reopening business and society.

Travel is also permitted to Ireland’s offshore islands now, rather than in August as originally envisaged.

Gatherings of up to 50 people indoors and 200 outdoors are permitted from Monday. This means weddings, funerals, sports events and conferences can go ahead within these limits.

Close-contact sports, indoor gyms, swimming pools and other sports facilities can all reopen their doors from today, as can summer camps, creches, youth clubs and adult education facilities.

In childcare, children will be grouped into pods of between six and 12 to reduce the risk of transmitting Covid-19.

Employees are still advised to work from home where they can.

Many of the restrictions being lifted today were supposed to have remained in place for longer over the summer, but the easing of restrictions was brought forward earlier this month by the outgoing government due to progress made in suppressing the virus.

Businesses reopening are required to implement physical distancing arrangements in their premises to limit the spread of Covid-19. These are likely to include protective screens, spaced queuing, limits on customer numbers at any one time, cleaning stations and the closure of changing rooms.

Public-health officials say that, weeks after the easing of restrictions began, the disease remains largely suppressed with low numbers of new cases daily. However, they have expressed concern about a rise in cases related to foreign travel and among younger people.

People are still being advised to practise cough etiquette and proper hand hygiene, and to avoid crowded areas.


One more person diagnosed with Covid-19 has died, the Department of Health reported on Sunday. This brings to 1,735 the number of deaths related to the disease in the Republic.

There were also another three confirmed cases notified to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre on Sunday, the department said. The total of Covid-19 cases now stands at 25,439, it said. There were 19 confirmed cases of the disease in hospital on Saturday evening and 103 suspected cases, according to the Health Service Executive operation report. Eleven confirmed cases were in ICU, along with five suspected cases.

The North’s department of health reported one more Covid-19 death on Sunday, taking the total number of fatalities in Northern Ireland to 550.

Meanwhile, the time taken to refer people for Covid-19 tests has doubled over the past week, new figures show. Last week, the average turnaround from a referral to appointment was 1.8 days, up from 0.8 days a week earlier.

Just 39 per cent of referrals were being made within 24 hours, against 81 per cent a week earlier.

The turnaround from the time a swab is taken to the lab result was unchanged, at 0.9 days.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is a former heath editor of The Irish Times.