Reopening plan: Workplaces to return from September 20th as almost all curbs lifted by October 22nd

Cabinet agrees to larger crowds to be permitted at sporting and cultural events

Easing of restrictions: The Government’s plan will include the phased return to workplaces from September 20th. Photograph: iStock

Easing of restrictions: The Government’s plan will include the phased return to workplaces from September 20th. Photograph: iStock

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A phased return to workplaces is to begin from September 20th under plans agreed by a Cabinet committee last night that will see almost all Covid-19 restrictions lifted by late October.

The Government is to announce a further easing of pandemic restrictions later today with larger crowds to be permitted at sporting and cultural events and the resumption of ceremonies such as Communions and Confirmations from next week.

The proposals were agreed by the Cabinet subcommittee on Covid-19 after hours of discussion among Ministers and weeks of work on a timetable by senior officials.

A phased approach to reopening looks set to be adopted again which will specify the measures to be applied at intervals over the weeks ahead.

Though the easing of restrictions is taking place more slowly and later than in many countries, the plans to be announced are more wide-ranging than had been expected.

Almost all remaining Covid-19 restrictions look set to be lifted by October 22nd, subject to 90 per cent of adults being fully vaccinated and the incidence of the virus being stable or falling, though people will still be required to wear masks on public transport.

Indicators such as hospital and intensive care capacity will be key factors when deciding whether to proceed with the further easing of curbs.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is understood to have urged colleagues to favour the more conservative of options, and referenced soaring case numbers in Scotland. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is understood to have urged colleagues to favour the more conservative of options, and referenced soaring case numbers in Scotland. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

New phase

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) is to be scaled back from October 22nd as the State moves into a new phase of the pandemic response. A source said Nphet and associated subgroups would move from an emergency footing to a “surveillance function” in the Department of Health and HSE.

The first date for reopening is expected to be next Monday, September 6th, when limits on crowds at sporting and cultural events are to increase. It is expected that outdoor events will be permitted to admit 75 per cent of the venue’s capacity, providing everyone is vaccinated, while indoor events will be allowed to admit 60 per cent of their capacity to the vaccinated. Religious ceremonies will be allowed to proceed at 50 per cent capacity, it is understood.

A gradual return to workplaces for those still working from home is to begin from September 20th. Under current restrictions, remote working is recommended where possible, but this advice is set to be amended, with a phased reopening of offices recommended from that date.

Employers will be given guidelines to assist in drawing up plans for the return, and will be encouraged to consult and agree plans with staff.

September 20th will also see easing of restrictions on smaller-scale activities such as indoor sports and activities such as yoga and Pilates.

‘Personal responsibility’

From mid to late October, it is planned that most other restrictions will be lifted, moving to a model of “personal responsibility”, Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan has urged parents to be cautious when allowing their children to participate in activities outside school.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is understood to have urged colleagues to favour the more conservative of options on the table, and referenced soaring case numbers – including among children – in Scotland, and high cases in Northern Ireland.

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