Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has announced that the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions are to be extended until May 18.
However, from next Tuesday, the current 2km travel restriction will be extended to 5km, and people over 70 who are cocooning have been advised they should continue to do so, but can go outside if they avoid contact with other people.
In an address to the nation this evening, Mr Varadkar said that the last few weeks have transformed out lives in so many different ways.
He outlined a roadmap of five stages on how the country will attempt to return to ‘normality’.
The following is the full roadmap to recovery:
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Phase 1, May 18th
From May 18, outdoor workers will be able to return to work. Some retail outlets such as garden centres, hardware shops, farmers markets and repair shops (such as bicycle, motor), electrical, IT and phone sales will reopen. Some sporting activities in small groups will be permitted. Small groups of up to four people (not of the same household) will be permitted to meet outdoors while maintaining social distancing.
Restrictions of ten people at funerals will remain in place.
Outdoor amenities and tourism sites such as beaches, carparks and mountain walks can be reopened. Small outdoor sports amenities can re-open, e.g. pitches, tennis courts, golf courses, where social distancing can be maintained.
Phase 2, June 8th
Restrictions on travel to be extended to 20km from your home. Continue to avoid unnecessary journeys. Designate specific retail hours across all retailers for the over 70s and medically vulnerable, with strict social distancing, gloves and face masks.
Visits to homes of over 70s and medically vulnerable for small number of people, for short period of time, wearing masks etc.
Up to four people may visit another household for a short period of time.
Slightly larger number of people in attendance at funerals, but still restricted to immediate family and close friends.
Permitted phased return of workers who can maintain 2m social distance constantly. Maintain remote working for businesses that can do so.
Small retail outlets with small number of staff can re-open. Marts where social distancing can be maintained will reopen.
Open public libraries with numbers limited and permit people to engage in outdoor sporting and fitness activities in small group training (but not matches)
Phase 3, June 29th
Opening of crèches, childminders and pre-schools for children of essential workers in phased manner with social distancing and other requirements applying.
Phased approach to visiting at hospitals, healthcare centres/prisons etc.
With a risk-based approach, organisations where employees have low levels of daily interaction and social distancing can be maintained, can open.
Phased opening of non-essential retail, with restrictions on numbers of staff and customers per square metre. This will be limited to retail outlets with street-level entrance and exit, i.e. which are not in shopping centres.
Re-open playgrounds and permit ‘behind closed doors’ sporting activities.
Open cafes, restaurants where they can comply with social distancing.
Phase 4, July 20th
Extend travel restrictions to outside your region. Slightly larger numbers can visit households for a short period of time. Small social gatherings by family and close friends with a maximum number (such as weddings and baptisms).
Small social (non-family) gatherings limited to a maximum number of people for a limited time period.
Opening of crèches, childminders and pre-schools to all other workers on a phased basis (e.g. one day per week) and slowly increasing thereafter.
Organisations where employees cannot remote work to be considered first for return to onsite working. Staggered shifts should be operated.
Commence loosening restrictions on higher risk services involving direct contact, e.g. barbers, hairdressers.
Open museums, galleries, religious places of workshop.
Permit sports team leagues (e.g. soccer and GAA), but only where limitations and placed on number of spectators and social distancing can be maintained.
Open public swimming pools.
Open hotels, hostels, caravan parks for social and tourist activities with limited occupancy increasing over time. Hotel bars remain closed.
Phase 5, August 10th
Commence opening of schools and colleges on a phased basis at the beginning of the 2020/21 academic year.
Return to normal visiting for hospitals, care homes, prisons etc.
Phased return (risk-based) to onsite working. ‘Higher risk’ organisations which by their nature cannot easily maintain social distancing will implement plans for how they can eventually progress towards onsite return for full staff complement.
Opening of enclosed shopping centres where social distancing can be maintained. Further loosening of services such as tattoo and piercing.
Open theatres and cinemas where social distancing can be maintained.
Permit close physical contact sports (rugby, boxing, wrestling); open gyms, exercise studios where regular cleaning can be carried out and social distancing maintained.
Permit sports spectatorship which involve mass gatherings with limits on indoor and outdoor numbers and social distancing.
Roller skating, bowling alley, bingo halls can reopen with limited numbers.
Pubs, bars, nightclubs, casinos where social distancing and strict cleaning can be complied with.
Festivals, events, social and cultural mass gatherings will be permitted where there are limits on numbers and social distancing is maintained.
Resume tourist travel to offshore islands by non-residents.
‘Give even one big GAA game to Ballinasloe’
It’s the most centrally located ground in the country but Ballinasloe’s Duggan Park won’t host a single inter-county match this year – much to the annoyance of one local councillor who wants the GAA to allocate at least one big game to the venue.
Cllr Michael Connolly told a meeting of Ballinasloe Municipal Council that the ground is entitled to host major football and hurling fixtures – even though all but one of the Galway footballers’ home league games are assigned to Pearse Stadium with the other one in Tuam.
“If they gave us one match in Duggan Park, it would be something,” he said. “But at the moment, it seems as if it is being ignored.”
The Moylough councillor described it as the most accessible ground in the country and a venue in which players and supporters like to travel to – unlike, he suggested, Pearse Stadium.
He said that it was “a hateful venue” and few GAA supporters relished the prospect of travelling to the “far side of the city” to watch a football or hurling match.
A recent meeting in Gullane’s Hotel to discuss Duggan Park was attended by Deputy Denis Naughton, Senator Aisling Dolan, Cllr Evelyn Parsons and Cllr Declan Kelly among others.
But the Duggan Park Committee then issued a statement saying that the ground is owned by Galway GAA and any use of the facility needed to be authorised – and no authorisation was given to the meeting organiser, former Mayor of Ballinasloe Joe Kelly, for this purpose.
Mr Kelly has been a staunch campaigner for the redevelopment of Duggan Park and has called on the local authority to row in behind this initiative.
They went on to say that there is a plan in place for the development of Duggan Park which is multiple staged which started with the new dressing rooms, flood lights and a new entrance to the venue.
Planning permission is in place for this development and that €500,000 has already been spent in the Duggan Park over the past number of years carrying out these projects.
The work in the ground, they say, is done to an excellent standard by local contractors with the support of the previous Town Council for grants and sports capital grants.
Former tourism magnet officially on register of derelict sites
The fire-ravaged hotel that was once one of the most popular in the county is now officially considered a derelict site – and that has led a local councillor to call for it to be either redeveloped or levelled.
Portumna’s Shannon Oaks Hotel, for so long popular with anglers and golfers in particular, has been boarded up for more than a decade since it was destroyed by fire.
Local councillor, Jimmy McClearn, has called on the owners to reopen or sell the property – adding that it should either be levelled or redeveloped.
“We are a tourist town and we need a hotel. The last thing we want is for a hotel to be shut up,” he said.
“It is a fine facility and on an extensive site so there is no reason why it should be boarded up,” he added.
The Shannon Oaks saga has gone on for the past twelve years – but now the owners, the multi-millionaire Comer brothers, will be forced to pay a derelict site levy if they do not reopen or redevelop.
That amounts to a seven per cent levy based on the market value of the property, which is worth around €1 million even in its derelict state.
The Shannon Oaks was ravaged by fire in September 2011 and four years later, the site was acquired by the Comer Group who, at the time, gave an undertaking that it would be reopened.
Around two years ago, planning permission was granted by Galway County Council to Barry Comer of the Comer Group to renovate the hotel by providing 60 new bedrooms along with 40 apartments to the rear of the structure.
However, there has been little or no movement on the site since then and now the owners are being again asked to give some indication as to when the hotel will be rebuilt.
It is considered an integral part of the tourism industry for the town and that is why pressure is mounting on the owners to rebuild the hotel.
Cllr McClearn said that all he is asking for is the owners to develop the site and provide a hotel there. “It’s not much to ask in a tourist town,” he added.
More than €200,000 worth of cannabis seized in East Galway
More than €200,000 worth of cannabis was seized in during two separate search operations in East Galway on Saturday.
Gardai from the Divisional Drugs Unit conducted a search at a residence in Aughrim and seized cannabis plants with an estimated street value of €146,000 and €20,000 worth of cannabis herb which will now be sent for analysis.
Two men (both in their 30s) were arrested at the scene in connection with the investigation and are currently detained at Galway Garda station under Section 2 of the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Act, 1996. Both men remain in custody.
A separate search was carried out at a residence in Ballinasloe yesterday afternoon and cannabis herb with an estimated street value of €35,000 was seized. Cannabis jellies and €7,510 in cash were also seized.
A man in his 40s was arrested and later released without charge and a file will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.