Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says coronavirus is "a fire in retreat" in Ireland

Ireland can officially launch Phase 1 of its roadmap to reopening society and business from Monday, May 18 as per advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).

Read More: “On May 18, Ireland begins to reopen” - Taoiseach outlines next phases

Speaking on May 15, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: "I can confirm that it is safe to proceed with Phase 1 of our plan to ease the COVID-19 restrictions on Monday.

"This gives us reason to hope, but it is not a cause for celebration. We have a long way to go yet. There will be bumps in the road and we have to keep our guard up."

Varadkar noted that he spoke with the First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill in Northern Ireland earlier in the day after the Irish government accepted the advice from NPHET. Northern Ireland is also set to slightly ease some restrictions from Monday, May 18.

I can confirm that it is safe to proceed with Phase 1 of our plan to ease the COVID-19 restrictions on Monday. Here are the details. #IrelandPhase1 #Covid19 #InThisTogether pic.twitter.com/kSfujX5pd9

— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) May 15, 2020

"Everything is provisional and reversible," Varadkar said before announcing which restrictions can be eased from Monday. "The message today is to stay at home, except for these five rules:"

  1. To go to work, if your place of work is open and you cannot work from home
  2. To shop for items you need
  3. To exercise within 5km of your home
  4. For medical reasons or to care for others
  5. To meet with friends or family outside, within 5km of your home, in groups of no more than 4

The following guidelines come into effect on Monday, May 18 in Ireland where social distancing measures can still be maintained:

  • Construction workers, gardeners, and other outdoor workers can return to work.
  • Hardware stores, builders merchants and those providing essential supplies and tools for gardening, farming and agriculture; garden centres and farmers markets can reopen.
  • Opticians/Optometrists/Outlets providing hearing test services, selling hearing aids and appliances can reopen.
  • Retailers involved in the sale, supply, and repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles, and bicycles and related facilities (e.g. tire sales and repairs) can reopen.
  • Office products and services; electrical, IT and phone sales, repair, and maintenance services for home can reopen. This does not include homeware stores.
  • Outdoor public amenities and tourism sites, such as carparks, beaches, and mountain walks may reopen.
  • Outdoor public sports amenities, like playing pitches, tennis courts, and golf courses may reopen.
  • Outdoor sports and fitness activities in groups of no more than four are permitted within 5km of your home and providing there is no physical contact.
  • School and college buildings may reopen for teachers and lecturers to facilitate remote learning.

During Phase 1, it is intended that customers should restrict visits to such stores for essential supplies. All retailers are encouraged to continue to provide on-line services where that is possible and appropriate to minimise footfall.

During Friday's press briefing, a large emphasis was placed on the idea of individual responsibility in helping to fight the spread of COVID-19. Basic hygiene measures that should continue to be observed include

  1. Washing your hands regularly;
  2. Maintaing a 2-metre distance from others where possible;
  3. Coughing or sneezing into your elbow or a tissue;
  4. Staying at home and self-isolate if you are sick.

Additionally, people are being advised to wear face masks or face coverings when in public, such as on busy public transport or in busy enclosed, indoor areas. Varadkar later clarified that the wearing of face masks is advisory and not a legal requirement.

During his remarks, Taoiseach Varadkar said that he "fervently" hopes that he can announce on June 5 that Phase 2 can be launched, as per the roadmap that was published on May 1.

He added: "The only thing that is inevitable is the spread of the virus unless we push it back every day.

"Coronavirus is an inferno that is raging around the world. In Ireland, it is now a ‘fire in retreat’ but it is not defeated. We must extinguish every spark, quench every ember."

You can watch today's entire press briefing here, with the remarks beginning at 20:18:

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