Reopening Ireland Q&A: What will open next Monday and can I meet up with friends?

Lockdown easing begins on Monday, here’s what is scheduled to happen from then until August

What is happening on May 18th?

From Monday, phase one of the Government’s roadmap for reopening society and business will come into come into effect.

On Friday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced Covid-19 restrictions would be eased after the National Public Health Emergency Team gave the green light.

From Monday members of the public are advised to stay at home, and avoid unnecessary journeys, except for the following five reasons:

  • To go to work, if your place of work is open and you cannot work from home
  • To shop for items you need
  • To exercise within 5km of your home
  • For medical reasons or to care for others
  • To meet friends or family outside, within 5km of your home, in groups of no more than four

What exactly will reopen?

Garden centres, farmers’ markets and hardware stores will reopen as well as opticians, motor and bicycle repair shops and phone repair shops. Outdoor workers in construction can return including gardeners and those working in allotments. Tennis courts and golf courses can also reopen but social distancing will apply.


How will the likes of opticians work with social distancing in place?

The Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI) has said appointments will be kept as brief as possible and the number of people on the premises at one time will be managed. Where close examinations are required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will be worn and recommended protocols will be followed.

The AOI said eye drops may be used to speed up exams. It said people should phone their optometrist in advance to discuss their needs and then to make an appointment based on this discussion.

Can I meet up with family and friends from Monday?

Up to four people who don’t live together can meet outdoors while keeping at least two metres apart. People are still being encouraged to stay at home as much as possible. Attendance at funerals is being kept to a maximum of 10 people.

Will childcare or education resume?

A scheme to offer childcare to frontline workers, which was due to begin from Monday, has been scrapped due to a low uptake of providers. Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has dismissed the possibility of schools reopening earlier than September. He rejected the view that there was "mounting evidence" showing that children do not appear to be super spreaders of the coronavirus as previously thought.

What restrictions will be lifted next?

Phase two of the Government’s roadmap is scheduled for June 8th and again this will depend on advice from the NPHET. People will be able to travel up to 20km away from their home though the advice will be to still avoid unnecessary journeys wherever possible.

Shops will provide dedicated hours for those who are cocooning, who can also have a small number of visitors to their home. Workers who work by themselves and those who can keep a 2m distance from others can return to work. A slightly larger number of people can be in attendance at funerals and public libraries are also expected to open.

What about the other phases of the Government’s roadmap?

From June 29th small social gatherings will be allowed and creches and preschools are expected to reopen for children of essential workers. Organisations can open where employees have low levels of daily interaction with people. Phased visiting will begin in hospitals, residential homes and prisons. Cafes and restaurants that can adhere to social distancing guidelines can reopen.

Playgrounds will be allowed to reopen and sporting activities and events can resume behind closed doors “where arrangements are in place to enable participants to maintain social distancing”.

The Government’s roadmap makes a distinction between small and large retailers in their plan and when each can open. How is a small or large store defined?

For retailers, there is a lack of clarity on this question. A Department of Business spokeswoman told The Irish Times that they, too, are “still awaiting clarity” on that question. David Fitzsimons, chief executive of Retail Excellence, said retailers aren’t exactly dying for the question to be cleared up, however, “because it’ll be overly prescriptive”. He noted the example of Germany, where one large toy store opened under the phase allowing small stores to reopen by adopting an Argos-style approach whereby only a small portion of the store is open but staff can get items requested by a customer from the closed areas of the store. If that is widely adopted here, expect all stores except those in shopping centres to reopen in the second phase.

What needs to be done for a business to be able to reopen?

The Government has published a document which details what employers should do to ensure the safety of employees and staff. Among other things, it recommends physical distancing and implementing hand hygiene regimes. Enforcement of the regime falls to the Health Safety Authority (HSA) which can carry out workplace inspections and, if Government advice isn’t implemented, shut down a workplace.

From July 20th, creches for all other workers will reopen but on a gradual basis. Those who cannot work from home will return to work. Hairdressers and barbers will reopen as well as museums, galleries, religious places of worship. Hotels and hostels will reopen on limited occupancy. Hotel bars will remain closed. Small social gatherings by family and close friends will be allowed but are to be limited to a maximum number of attendees for a period of time where social distancing can be maintained.

Competitions for sports teams can resume but only where limitations are placed on the numbers of spectators and where social distancing can be implemented.

From August 10th pubs, bars, nightclubs and casinos will reopen where social distancing and cleaning can be complied with. Festivals and other cultural gatherings may be held but with restricted numbers. Large weddings will still be restricted due to risk, as will other large gatherings. Normal visiting will resume in hospitals.

A phased return to normal work will start around this time. Shopping centres will reopen as well as theatres and cinemas that can maintain social distancing. Close physical contact sports like rugby, boxing and wrestling will be permitted. Gyms can reopen where there is regular and effective cleaning.