Barbers and hairdressers are “going to great lengths” to show they can conduct their business while complying with social distancing rules, Minister for Health Simon Harris has said.
Hairdressers and barbers are expected be allowed to reopen on June 29th, sooner than had been planned.
Government sources said that a move to bring the reopening of barbers and hairdressers forward to June 29th is being worked towards as the plan to reopen Ireland after coronavirus restrictions is accelerated and changed.
Others said the issue had not been decided yet, with the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) expected to reassess the plan over the next 10 days. It was noted by numerous sources that some people were getting their hair cut by professionals in their own homes.
Mr Harris and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar are said to be open to an earlier reopening, as long as NPHET recommends such a move.
On Thursday, Mr Harris told the Dáil the Government hoped to make a decision next week on the matter.
He said he recognised that for many people “getting their hair done has a mental health element as well” and he acknowledged that it was a serious issue for the sector. An estimated 25,000 people are employed in the industry.
He also said the sector has been making “big efforts…to adapt their premises”.
“I heard them talk about bringing one or two customers in at a time. They are going to great lengths and I hope we can make progress on this.”
Numerous government and Opposition TDs said hairdressers and barbers wanted certainty about when they could reopen.
Mr Harris said there was a plan for three further phases of reopening the economy but NPHET had recommended that that it could be possible to do that in two phases rather than three.
“We are now looking at what belongs in each phase and NPHET will provide guidance to the Government on that.”
He said NPHET may have started considering the issue on Thursday and the Government would consider it next week.
“I hope, therefore, that by the end of next week, we will have a direct answer to the question as to what phases each of the remaining sectors will fit.”
On Wednesday Mr Varadkar also acknowledged hairdressers could be allowed to reopen earlier than previously planned, and he described as “too slow” the Government’s initial five-phase road map to reopen the country from the coronavirus lockdown by August.
Hairdressers had been due to reopen on July 20th. Earlier this week the Irish Hairdresser’s Federation (IHF) proposed 100 measures it said could ensure salons and barbers are safe to reopen.
Among these measures are a ban on reading material for customers and extensive use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for stylists and customers.
They also include proposals for the full sanitisation of workstations after each customer.
The IHF plan also suggested Covid-19 training for all staff, and there will be screening of customers when taking bookings.
Salon visits and customer phone numbers will also be recorded for contact tracing purposes. Hairdressers are not being advised to wear gloves.
It is unclear which of these proposals will be in place when hairdressers and barbers reopen.
The IHF had argued that if it is forced to remain closed until the end of July, the shutdown will have lasted for 18 weeks when the average time hairdressers were closed in other countries across the EU has been between six and eight weeks.
The federation said its guidelines had been developed following engagement with the HSE and the Health and Safety Authority and with the assistance of health and safety experts.
*An earlier version of this article suggested that a decision had been made to allow salons to reopen on June 29th. The article has been amended to clarify that Government approval is pending.