Taosieach Leo Varadkar announced that lockdown restrictions imposed to limit the spread of coronavirus will be extended until May 18 before Ireland can begin to reopen, but the 2km travel limit has been raised to 5km from next Tuesday.
On May 18 the government will begin the process of taking Ireland out of the restrictions it has imposed for the coronavirus pandemic, and restarting the economy.
In an address from the steps of government buildings this evening the Taoiseach said that he knows the restrictions have been hard on everyone.
“The last few weeks have transformed our lives in so many different ways, in ways that we could not have imagined.”
“Our physical health has been attacked, our mental health eroded, our economy battered, and our society put to the ultimate test”.
The Taoiseach said that people’s efforts have succeeded in flattening the curve, preventing hospitals from being overwhelmed, and saving thousands of lives.
But he said that before these restrictions can be lifted, two more weeks are needed beyond May 5 to ensure the coronavirus doesn’t make a resurgence.
“Everything we have achieved could be lost,” the Taoiseach warned, adding that this time is needed to weaked the virus so it does not come back when people begin to interact again.
But some small changes to the current conditions of the lockdown were also announced.
The 2km travel limit for exercise has been raised to 5km, and people over the age of 70 who have been cocooning will be allowed out to exercise, from next Tuesday.
People who are cocooning are being advised to continue doing so, and that when they take their exercise they should avoid all contact with other people.
The announcements made by Taoiseach Varadkar this evening come after a two and a half hour Cabinet meeting which took place today.
The Taoiseach’s speech also stated that a long-term plan to begin reopening the country and economy as we come out of the Covid-19 crisis has been agreed on.
The plan will operate in five phases, each lasting three weeks, which will get underway on May 18, and with the fifth phase hoped to begin on August 10.
But if the coronavirus infections begin to rise again, restrictions could be reimposed, and the plan would move back a phase.
Even once the country begins to reopen, people will have to continue physical distancing until there is a vaccine.
May 18 will see outdoor work such as construction and landscaping will be allowed to resume, and some businesses such as hardware stores, garden centres, and repair shops will be allowed to reopen.
Some outdoor sports will be allowed to resume in small groups, and people will be able to meet their friends outdoors in small numbers.
Later in the summer businesses such as café, bars, restaurants, childcare, cinemas, gyms etc will be allowed to reopen.
Schools and colleges will not reopen until September or October when the coming academic year starts.
“Getting people back to work and restarting businesses will not be easy,” the Taoiseach acknowledged, saying that the government will be looking at ways to support suffering business through this process.
Tomorrow the Cabinet will meet once again to discuss measures to help business get back on their feet and rehire workers who have been furloughed.
Speaking in the Dáil on Thursday, Minister for Health Simon Harris said the government will have to be accountable for its plan of action.
Shortly before the speech Galway West TD Eamon Ó Cuív expressed criticism of the fact that the Taoiseach would not be taking any questions from the press.
Deputy Ó Cuív asked “where’s the accountability” for the government on making decisions that “fundamentally impact” on people’s lives.
No functioning Dáil and now it seems no questions following a briefing by the Taoiseach on measures which fundamentally impact on people’s lives. Where’s the accountability? https://t.co/Y9hopuiZhb
— Éamon Ó Cuív (@eamonocuiv) May 1, 2020
34 more people with Covid-19 are today confirmed to have died, bringing the national death toll to 1,295.
But while an additional 221 new cases have been confirmed nationwide, there were no new cases in Galway today, with the confirmed figure remaining at 355.
There have now been 20,833 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland.
“The coronavirus is cruel and inhuman. However the stories I am hearing every day are stories of human kindness”
“The kindness of healthcare, nursing home, and hospice staff who have comforted and cared for the sick and dying with dignity.”
“In every city, in every town, in every village, people have met the demands of this crisis with remarkable courage, and a sense of solidarity”.
The best way to help all the people suffering in this crisis the Taoiseach said, and all the people on the frontline, is by staying the course.