Though the nationwide lockdown imposed for the Covid-19 crisis remain in force, several changes to its conditions have come into effect from today, literally offering people a breath of fresh air.
People over 70 who have been advised to take a more stringent form of lockdown, cocooning themselves for several weeks now, will be able to get out and exercise, or just enjoy the sun again.
The government is still advising that the elderly should cocoon for the most part, and when they go outside they should avoid all contact with other people.
It has been reported in the Irish Independent that the cabinet overruled the National Public Health Emergency Team’s recommendation that people over 70 should stay at home until August.
That comes to the second big change today, the 2km travel limit being raised to 5km.
Since March 27 people have only been able to go for a walk or other outdoor recreation/exercise within 2km of where they live.
Journeys beyond that point were only allowed for very limited reasons such as going to buy food, attending a necessary medical appointment, or providing essential care to a family member.
This travel limit confining people to the streets and back roads near their homes has been the most chafing restriction imposed to fight the coronavirus, and the one that people are most desirous of seeing lifted.
The Taoiseach, announcing the government’s roadmap to reopening the country starting from May 18 last week, cautioned people not to get complacent, and risk giving the virus new strength.
Gardaí have reported broad compliance with social distancing and lockdown restrictions, but officers were assigned this bank holiday weekend to patrol leisure spots such as Salthill beach over fears that the fine weather would tempt people.
When the first phase of the plan to ease Covid-19 restrictions comes into effect from May 18, people will be able to meet outdoors in groups of up to 4, as long as the employ proper distancing of 2m.
Outdoor spaces such as beaches and mountain walks will also reopen, provided people are able to maintain social distancing there.
Social visits to friends’ homes won’t be possible until later in the summer when Phase 2 gets underway on June 8, and people who are cocooning will be able to have small numbers of visitors to their homes, provided those people wear gloves and face coverings.
The restrictions will continue to be eased through the summer, with more social contact allowed and hospitality businesses allowed to reopen.
But all of this is contingent on Covid-19 cases number staying down, and restrictions could be reimposed if the virus makes a comeback.