Ireland gets ready to reopen for business

Government’s announcement of quicker easing of restrictions reflects positive progress by society in face of Covid-19 pandemic.

Ireland is getting ready to fully reopen for business as the country’s Government outlined segments of the economy that will soon open their doors.

The impact of multiple lockdowns on business has been damaging, but patience and forbearance in the face of a global pandemic was needed.

“I understand how difficult it has been for businesses and workers, and the huge desire there is for people just to be able to make a living again”

Yesterday the Government decided to move ahead with the Recovery and Resilience: The Path Ahead plan, saying Ireland is now in the early stages of the Recovery phase of the pandemic.

The decision is based on advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), that a cautious and gradual phased reopening over May and June, with an emphasis on outdoor activity and a moderate increase in social contact, can be considered low to medium risk.

NPHET has advised that there is scope to ease a range of public health measures in this manner with sufficient time between any easing of measures to assess the impact.

“Taking these steps will see many thousands of people going back to work for the first time in many months,” said An Taoiseach Micheál Martin, TD. “I understand how difficult it has been for businesses and workers, and the huge desire there is for people just to be able to make a living again.

“I thank you for the sacrifice you have made and it is your determination to get back to successful trading which convinces me that our society and our economy will recover.”

The steps were welcomed by the CEO of Ibec Danny McCoy. “The announcement from Government represents the positive steps in catalysing momentum to the safe reopening of our economy and society. To maintain its sustainable benefits to society, it is vital that Government now commits to an ongoing review of its reopening timeline, ensuring that it reflects the risk reduction that the vaccine programme is delivering. 

“Ibec welcomes the commitment from Government that there will be no cliff edge in financial supports for businesses. Businesses, such as those operating in the Experience Economy, have borne the brunt of the crisis and until such a time that businesses are back operating at pre-covid levels, continued financial supports will be required to help vulnerable firms to stay afloat while protecting the incomes of individuals.

“Further certainty is still needed however on the protocols of the gradual return to offices. Government must provide confidence to employers and employees that the safety and wellbeing of people at work can be securely managed as we begin to reopen our economy. This includes preparing for increases in the demand for public transport over the coming weeks and months, and this reality should be reflected in the provision of additional services, where possible, including the welcome increase in the capacity limit to 50pc from the start of May,” McCoy said.

Here are steps planned to reopen the Irish economy:

May 2021

Everyone should continue to work from home unless absolutely necessary to attend in person.

From 4 May

All remaining construction can recommence.

From 10 May

  • An increase in the numbers that can meet outdoors for social/recreational purposes, including in private gardens – maximum of 3 households or 6 people.
  • Organised outdoor gatherings with a maximum attendance of 15 people.
  • Outdoor training for adults in pods of a maximum of 15 people.
  • Phased reopening of non-essential retail. Click and collect, in store by appointment only and outdoor retail can recommence from 10 May.  All remaining retail to reopen from 17 May.
  • Reopening of personal services by appointment.
  • Reopening of galleries, museums, other cultural attractions and libraries (lending services only).
  • Recommencement of in-person religious services. No communions or confirmations should take place.
  • Funerals– 50 mourners permitted at service. Related events, either before or after should not take place.
  • Weddings –
    • Services – 50 guests permitted at service (civil or religious).
    • Celebration/Reception – 6 for indoor gatherings/15 for outdoor gatherings.
  • Inter-county travel can resume.
  • Increase in numbers on public transport, up to 50% of normal capacity.

Vaccine bonus

From 10 May, indoor private home visiting is permitted (without masks or social distancing) in the following cases:

  • Fully vaccinated people can meet indoors with other fully vaccinated people as long as there are no more than 3 households present.
  • Fully vaccinated people can meet indoors with unvaccinated people from a single household, provided that they are not at risk of severe illness and no more than 3 households are present. 

June 2021

Subject to prevailing disease situation and a full assessment by public health at that time

From 2 June:

Accommodation services including hotels, B&Bs, self-catering and hostels can reopen. Services including leisure facilities, indoor restaurant and bar services must be restricted to overnight guests/residents only.

From 7 June:

  • Outdoor sports matches can recommence (no spectators).  
  • Gyms, swimming pools, leisure centres can reopen for individual training only.
  • Outdoor services in restaurants and bars can recommence, with groups limited to a maximum of 6 people.
  • The numbers of guests attending wedding celebration/reception can increase to 25.
  • Visiting indoors in private homes – visitors from one other household is permitted.

Medium Term

A number of higher-risk activities will be considered at the end of June for later in the year including:

  • Indoor hospitality (restaurants, bars, nightclubs, casinos).
  • Indoor team/group sports including matches, training and exercise classes.
  • Mass gatherings/events (including spectators) indoors and outdoors.
  • International travel 

Business Supports

Recovery will include economic measures to help businesses and get people back to work.  Clear sectoral guidance and supports for business will be provided at each stage to ensure safe reopening. 

There will be no cliff edge in financial supports for businesses. Any business currently availing of CRSS and that can now reopen as restrictions are eased will be able to avail of double restart week payments for two weeks subject to the statutory maximum of €5,000 per week to support them in meeting the costs of reopening as they exit the scheme.

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 30 Mayh 2021

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