Something’s happening today? Here’s how the restrictions are changing

Q&A: Coronavirus measures will be eased in stages from May 18th, but there will be two changes before then

O’Connell Bridge in Dublin during coronavirus restrictions. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

O’Connell Bridge in Dublin during coronavirus restrictions. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The current restrictions on social and economic life will be eased in stages from May 18th. From Tuesday, however, minor changes will be introduced.

What is changing?

People are still advised to stay at home except in limited circumstances. Those circumstances are to get essential supplies such as food and medicine and to do some exercise.

From Tuesday, the 2km zone from your home that is allowable for exercise has been extended to 5km.

Under the regulations, it is an offence for a person to leave his or her place of residence, unless the person has a “reasonable excuse” for doing so.

The potential penalties for this offence are a fine of up to €2,500 and/or imprisonment for a term of up to six months if a person refuses to comply with the request of a garda to return to their homes.

The new guidelines do not allow for people to exercise with those other than from their own households.

What is happening with the over-70s?

Up to now, people over 70 were being asked to stay at home in all circumstances, a recommendation which has caused some resentment from those in that age bracket.

This was summed in a statement from the Irish Senior Citizens’ Parliament last week. It said: “Blanket ‘cocooning’ based purely on age is difficult and some view it as ageist. They are law abiding, but are beginning to question the blanket ban.

“As adults , their view is, that they are capable of using discretion and the benefit they will experience in general well being, fitness, mental and general health will be immeasurable.”

As of Tuesday, the over-70s have been advised to only leave their homes in limited circumstances. “For people who are cocooning the public health advice is to continue to do so,” the Taoiseach has said.

“However it will still be possible to go for a walk or a drive within 5 km of your home if you avoid all contact with other people.”

People venturing out are advised to keep at least 2m away from others, avoid physical contact with others, do not touch surfaces with their hands and wash their hands when they get home. Where possible, they should exercise where there are few people out and about.

It is important to state that these measures are advisory not mandatory, though the impression was given to some elderly people that the strictures were mandatory.

Retired Church of Ireland archbishop John Neill (74) has described himself and his wife as “extremely annoyed that we older people have been deceived and misled in the midst of” the current Covid-19 crisis and there appeared “to have been a deliberate attempt to mislead in public advertising and even by the Taoiseach, the Minister for Health and the chief medical officer (Tony Holohan)” on the issue.

However, people over 70 can be sanctioned in the same way as everyone else if they venture outside the 5km zone.

What happens next?

From May 18th, people will be able to meet up with others who are not in their households.

Up to four people who don’t live together can meet outdoors while keeping at least two metres apart from that date.

The current restrictions will remain in place otherwise. Attendance at funerals is kept to a maximum of 10 people - and only members of the household, close family or close friends if the deceased has no household or family members

On June 8th, the 5km limit will be extended to 20km, though social interaction between households will remain limited.

People can take part in outdoor sporting and fitness activities, involving team sports training in small groups (but not matches) where social distancing can be maintained and where there is no contact.

Only in phase four of the lifting of lockdown restrictions will the public be able to venture out of their immediate vicinity and travel beyond 20km.