Phase two explainer: What restrictions are being lifted today?

Some shops will reopen and you can explore your county but no pints or haircuts

100 days since the first confirmed case of coronavirus in Ireland the disease has made a lasting impact on all aspects of Irish life.

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So, as of this morning, we are in phase two. But it’s not the phase two we expected. See, it’s phase two of four, not phase two of five. It’s phase two-plus. There hasn’t been five phases for days now. That was the old plan, the plan that was supposed to start on May 5th, but because we weren’t ready, started on May 18th. Now though, because we’re super-ready, we can speed it up.

No, you can’t get your hair cut yet, and it’s a resounding “maybe, possibly, but probably not’’ on flying this summer. But pints might be on the horizon, so long as you’re having more than a packet of dry roasted.

Confused yet? There’s been a lot of chopping and changing recently, so here is the definitive guide to what you can do this morning that you couldn’t do last night.

Can I go more than 5km from home?
Yes! Actually, depending on what county you live in, you can go much farther. Let’s say you live in Mitchelstown: you can happily drive to your holiday home in Allihies, almost 200km away. Most of us won’t have quite that level of freedom, but from today, travel within your county, or within 20km of your home if you’re leaving your county, is permitted.

And what’s this talk of pints?
Steady on. It looks like bars that can operate in a restaurant-like manner – table service and a food offering – might be able to open from June 29th. There’ll be more guidance for the sector, as well as hotels and restaurants, in the coming days. There has been a lot of discussion of it, but nothing has changed this morning. So hold your horses on the pints for now.

Phase two: Tell us what you are up to today as restrictions ease

So what can I do?
A lot more retail will begin to open up this week, with some shops permitted to open from today. Initially this will be restricted to shops with street entrances, but from June 15th, shopping centres will be open. It will be a different experience – expect queues, strict social distancing, no changing rooms, no beauty concessions, and food and drink offerings to be curtailed. Not all shops will open at once, either. Expect staggered opening hours, and allocated times for elderly and vulnerable customers. Plan ahead before you shop.

What about seeing my friends and family?
For most of us, this is the question, after months isolated from loved ones. From today, up to six people from different households can gather, inside or outside, so long as strict social distancing can be observed. Organised outdoor exercise, sporting, cultural or social activities of up to 15 people are also permitted. The rules around funerals have been slightly relaxed, with up to 25 immediate family members and close friends permitted at funeral services.

What about moving around, and should I be wearing a mask?
Public transport is still curtailed – buses and the Dart will run a pre-Covid “Monday to Friday” schedule but, to facilitate social distancing, capacity will be restricted. Really the intention is to facilitate workers, not the public in general. Walking and cycling is advised for getting around. If you are on public transport, or out shopping, the advice is to wear a face mask.

I’m over 70, am I still a cocooner?
The advice for the over-70s or medically vulnerable is still to be “extra vigilant”, to stay home as much as possible, and to use specially allocated times when shopping. You may have small numbers of people in your home, if social distancing can be observed.

Please tell me there’s something there for the kids
Thankfully, yes. But it’s a trickle, not a flood. Outdoor summer camps are now permitted, so long as they entail no more than 15 people mixing together. Playgrounds can reopen, so long as they’re supervised. There’s some confusion over exactly what that means, however, with Dublin City Council last week saying it would not be reopening pending clarification on “supervision”. Watch this space.

What about the 2m rule?
Stay 2m apart where possible; there’s been a lot of debate about this, and in time it may change, but for now it stays in place.

And should I be heading back to the office?
While some rules on work have been relaxed, such as for solitary workers, the general advice is still to work from home where possible.

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