Ireland’s six-week lockdown will end next week with shops, gyms and restaurants all returning as infections fall – but pubs will stay closed unless they serve food.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin gave a televised address to tell the nation Christmas would be ‘different but special’ this year.
He said: ‘We can be with our loved ones and remember those we’ve lost. We will come through this together.
‘In easing restrictions we are going as far as we believe it is possible to achieve the best balance of health, economic, and social considerations, but no further.’
Travel between counties will be allowed from December 18 to allow families to visit each other – and up to two other households can be welcomed into people’s homes between December 18 and January 6.
Taoiseach Micheal Martin (pictured) gave a televised address to tell the nation Christmas would be ‘different but special’ this year
Ireland became one of first European countries to reimpose tough COVID-19 constraints six weeks ago when the government shut non-essential retail and limited pubs and restaurants to takeaway service.
From Tuesday, however, the economy will begin to be one of the most open across Europe after a sharp cut in the 14-day incidence rate per 100,000 people to below 100, behind only Finland and Iceland across the continent.
Mr Martin said the upcoming festive period ‘cannot and will not be the kind of Christmas we are used to’ but added the easing of restrictions would offer ‘some respite from the hardships of 2020 and in particular, the last six weeks’.
‘The encouraging news is that the efforts and the sacrifices that each of us has made is working. Lives have been saved,’ he added.
Ireland became one of first European countries to reimpose tough COVID-19 constraints six weeks ago when the government shut non-essential retail and limited pubs and restaurants to takeaway service. Pictured, Belfast city centre today
According to measures agreed by the Irish government, all retail outlets, museums, galleries and libraries will be allowed to reopen under social distancing measures from 1 December.
Under the ‘level three’ national restrictions, individuals will be also allowed to go the gym for individual training and to attend religious services.
Further easing will be introduced on December 4, with pubs that serve food and restaurants allowed to reopen. Food must be prepared on-site, inside the premises.
Pubs that serve only drinks will remain closed except for takeaway and delivery.
From January 7, Ireland has said it will review all measures put in place over the previous month while considering the trajectory of the virus.
The government has agreed that facemasks should be recommended in crowded workplaces, places of worship and in busy or crowded outdoor spaces where there is significant congregation.
In October Ireland became the first EU nation to return to a full coronavirus lockdown.
Mr Martin made his announcement the day the entire hospitality sector and non-essential retail in British-run Northern Ireland closed for two weeks, potentially leading to a rush of cross-border Christmas shopping. Pictured, Belfast
While schools remained open, all Irish citizens were told to stay home, with a strict five-kilometre (three-mile) travel limit for exercise.
Martin praised the public’s efforts in combating the disease, saying the country had ‘pushed the virus back to the point where we now have the second lowest infection rate in the European Union’.
A total of 2,043 people have been killed by coronavirus in the Republic of Ireland from 71,699 confirmed cases.
Mr Martin made his announcement the day the entire hospitality sector and non-essential retail in British-run Northern Ireland closed for two weeks, potentially leading to a rush of cross-border Christmas shopping.
‘I lay awake last night and the thoughts of not trading this Christmas, and maybe not until next summer. I feel demoralised, dazed by it all,’ Willie Aherne, owner of Dublin’s Palace Bar told broadcaster Virgin Media News.
The adaptation by many shuttered stores to takeaway or click-and-collect services limited the economic damage over the last six weeks with data on Friday showing retail sales fell by just 0.7 per cent month-on-month in October and were up 8.1 per cent year-on-year.
Source: Daily Mail