Hospitality sector, sporting and cultural events, foreign travel: faster, broader reopening this summer

Confirmation of significant easing of restrictions described as a ‘good news day’

A far-reaching lifting of Covid-19 restrictions was announced on Friday night by Taoiseach Micheál Martin, who unveiled a schedule for admitting crowds to sporting and cultural events, reopening hospitality businesses and permitting foreign travel over the coming months that is both faster and broader than previously expected.

The measures will see a large degree of normality gradually return to social and commercial life over the summer.

In a televised address from Government Buildings, Mr Martin cautioned that the coming month could be “the most important test” in the fight against the pandemic but if people continued to observe the remaining restrictions and to take the vaccine, “the end of this is within our grasp”.

But Mr Martin also sounded a warning: “Change brings risk. We still have a journey to go with our vaccination programme, and we are monitoring very closely what impact new variants, especially the B1617 “Indian” variant has on the spread of the virus.


“But subject to us continuing to make progress,” he said, “we will move to the next phase of reopening.”

He went on to say that the planned reopening schedule of June would go ahead as planned, with a number of additional elements, mainly relating to attendance at events. There will also be a series of test events that will be allowed to admit larger crowds.

Mr Martin went on to lay out a programme for further reopening in June, July and August.

These include the reopening of outdoor hospitality, cinemas and theatres, sports matches, gyms and swimming pools and amusement parks .

There will also be a start to the reopening of driver theory test services and an incremental reopening of driver test centres, as well as the phased reopening of day centres for older people.

In July indoor pubs and restaurants will reopen, while rules governing the numbers allowed to attend gatherings in private homes, and organised events will also be relaxed. International travel will resume on July 19.

Subject to the continued rollout of the vaccine and the suppression of the virus, August will see another stage in the reopening.

From August 5th there will be a further increase in numbers attending indoor events, with 200 in larger venues and 100 in all others. The current 50 per cent capacity restriction on public transport will be lifted and up to 100 guests will be able to attend weddings.

The Taoiseach indicated that there could also be a further relaxation of the limits of people attending outdoor sporting events.

In a press conference hosted with Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan, Mr Martin said people would be asked to continue to work from home, saying this was based on public health advice. Mr Varadkar said there could be a staggered return to offices in August, but the Government's current target was that offices should reopen in September. Mr Varadkar also questioned reports that there was widespread fraud related to the pandemic unemployment payment.

Mr Ryan said it was “a good news day for the people of our country”.

Asked about the risks of reopening, Mr Martin said Nphet had advised the Government that the measures represented “low-to-medium” risk.

“Yes, there was a caveat put in in relation to the Indian variant,” he said.

He said that an “ad hoc group” of senior officials had been set up “to closely monitor the Indian variant here and the UK.”

“There’s no point in saying there’s not risk, there is risk there,” he said.

While just 20 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated now, it is understood the head of the high-level task vaccine Brian MacCraith told Thursday's Cabinet sub-committee that at least 2.5m people will be fully vaccinated in Ireland in July. It could even be closer to three million people, sources said.

Belgium, France, Luxembourg, and the United States have now been removed from the list of countries from which passengers must hotel quarantine when arriving into the State

Due to concerns about the Indian variant people travelling from Great Britain are strongly advised to avail of free testing five days after arrival in Ireland, and to strictly adhere to the legal requirements for home quarantine, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said.

A further 467 new cases of the Covid-19 were reported on Friday.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times