Ireland on track to ease restrictions, lay out summer plan

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Ireland is on track to ease restrictions from May 4 to allow the phased reopening of all retail stores and hairdressers and will also develop a plan for further reopenings in June and July, Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Thursday.

Ireland shut most shops, building sites and hospitality in late December after a surge of COVID-19 infections. It began gradually unwinding economic restrictions this week, with housebuilding permitted and all students returning to schools.

The third shutdown in the last year has turned one of the world’s highest incidence rates of COVID-19 in January into one of Europe’s lowest. The number of cases per 100,000 people measured over the past 14 days has fallen to 132 this week.

“We’re on track to ease restrictions from May 4. What we’re planning is allowing more outdoor activities, a phased reopening of retail and personal services but what we’ll also do at the end of April is develop the plan for June and July,” Varadkar told national broadcaster RTE.

“That’s looking good.”

The government said last month that it hoped to be able to reopen hotels in June but was criticised by restaurant and bar owners for not giving an indication of when they will be allowed to trade beyond just takeaway services.

Across the open border in British-run Northern Ireland, the regional government is set to outline a faster reopening plan later on Thursday on the back of a more advanced vaccination programme.

Photo: A woman wearing a face mask looks out of a window of a tram in Dublin City, Ireland. EPA-EFE/AIDAN CRAWLEY

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