The Cabinet will be presented today with a plan for a quicker-than-expected reopening of social and economic life in the next two months following lengthy talks between health chiefs and the leaders of the coalition parties last night.
Based on the twin expectations the vaccine rollout will be greatly accelerated and that new infections remain contained, the revised reopening plan will see greater freedom for people who are vaccinated, a relaxation of the restrictions on people meeting up outdoors – including allowing them to meet in their gardens – and the reopening of personal services and outdoor hospitality in the coming weeks.
All construction is to open on Tuesday, while the ban on intercountry travel will be lifted from May 10th. Hairdressers and personal services look set to resume business on the same date.
Non-essential retail including click and collect will return, starting May 10th ahead of a wider reopening of business on the 17th.
Outdoor hospitality including restaurants and pubs will resume on June 7th, it is understood.
Hotels are set to reopen on June 2nd. Indoor dining is expected to be allowed.
Under the proposals to be rubber-stamped by Ministers households will be allowed to meet in groups of six people outdoors including in private gardens from May 10th.
A big part of the reopening plan involves a “vaccine dividend” which will allow those who have been vaccinated greater freedom to meet people once time has been given for the vaccines to take effect. For example, grandparents who have been vaccinated will be able to meet, indoors, grandchildren and other family members who have not been inoculated, under the proposals being considered.
For weddings and religious services 50 people may be permitted to attend the ceremony. Six can attend the reception indoors in May and this will rise to 25 in June under the proposals.
Public transport will increase capacity to 50 per cent on May 10th - meaning half of seats can then be used rather than the current quarter - although Irish Rail and Dublin Bus are already returning to full schedule next Monday.
The faster timetable was drawn up after weeks of exchanges between health officials and the Government, which culminated in last night’s Cabinet subcommittee meeting. Its recommendations will now be considered by a special Cabinet meeting today, though the plan is expected to be approved, followed by announcements by the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and leader of the Green Party this evening.
It is understood public health officials agreed reopening outdoor activity in May and June would be low risk, and that reopening in July onwards would depend on vaccine rollout and uptake, as well as the emerging evidence about new variants of the virus. Exact dates were still being worked on last night, but it is thought the approach of gradual, staged lifting of restrictions, employed this month, will be repeated.
Sources familiar with the exchanges in recent weeks say Government has argued the heavy restrictions in place since Christmas were required for a pre-vaccination scenario.
Meanwhile, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, will seek to have passport production be deemed an essential service. There is a backlog of about 89,000 applications.