Taoiseach says Republic of Ireland ‘kept its head' as he confirms end of most restrictions
The Taoiseach has said that the Republic of Ireland “kept its head as a country” as he unveiled plans to ease the majority of remaining Covid-19 restrictions.
Micheál Martin said that the sectors still closed due to the virus can “now begin to hope again” as he set out a road map agreed by the cabinet to reopen society.
In a televised address to the nation, Mr Martin warned that the pandemic is not over but added: “Today though, we are taking an important and very welcome step forward.”
He said that the nation’s vaccine programme has “powered ahead” and is the envy of much of the world, with close to 90% of people over the age of 18 now fully vaccinated.
The Taoiseach unveiled the next phase of the Government’s response to the pandemic, entitled, Covid-19: Reframing The Challenge, Continuing Our Recovery And Reconnecting.
Subject to current progress against the virus being maintained, the plan will see the majority of restrictions lifted and replaced by guidance.
Public transport will return to full capacity from Wednesday.
From next Monday restrictions on indoor venues will be eased, with larger crowds permitted.
Indoor venues will be able to use up to 60% of capacity when holding events for people who are double jabbed.
For outdoor events, 75% of capacity will be available for vaccinated individuals.
Live music at weddings and pubs is also set to return from Monday.
The timetable will see workers returning to offices on a phased basis from September 20.
Also from September 20, there will be an easing of restrictions on indoor and outdoor group activities, including sports, arts, culture, and dance classes.
Mr Martin said it is hoped that most of the remaining restrictions can then be lifted on October 22.
This includes the legal requirement to prove immunity in order to access indoor hospitality or other events.
Remaining restrictions on indoor and outdoor events and activities, on religious or civil ceremonies and the legal requirements for mask wearing outdoors and in indoor private settings will also be removed.
Nightclubs will also be permitted to re-open, while requirements for physical distancing will be lifted.
There will also be no limits on numbers that can meet in private homes and gardens.
Mr Martin told the nation: “We are very unlikely to ever be able to be rid of the virus completely.
“Indeed, we expect to see an increase in case numbers over the coming weeks.
“But the combined strategy of careful reopening and energetic vaccination has brought us to a point where we can begin to do things differently.
“Sectors that remain closed or are still subject to massive restrictions, can begin to hope again.
“Obviously, we must remain vigilant and nimble, and if a new dangerous variant of concern emerges or if our hospitals come under unsustainable pressure again, we will move quickly to respond to the situation.”
Mr Martin added: “We’ve had to accept restrictions on our personal freedoms that would have been unthinkable just a couple of years ago.
“Never before have we confronted a public health and economic challenge of this scale, and which has continued to rapidly evolve.
“The Government has directly intervened in the economy and provided massive direct supports in a manner and on a scale that is simply unprecedented.
“All of this, and much more, was necessary because our number one priority had to be the protection of people’s lives and public health.
“But protecting lives and public health has demanded policies which have often been frustrating.
“And I know that at different times, the different approaches of some other countries looked more attractive and debates about this led to some tensions.
“But I also know this.
“Despite these frustrations and tensions, and despite genuine concern for the disproportionate burden borne by some sectors, we kept our head as a country.
“We stuck together, we followed the best advice, we did what we were asked and we looked out for each other.”
Another 1,382 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have been reported by the Department of Health.
As of 8am on Monday, there were 355 Covid-19 patients in hospital, with 54 in intensive care.