Ireland is opening up after the longest lockdown in a series of three over the past 14 months with freedom to travel anywhere in the country from Monday, May 10.
All construction work restarted on Tuesday this week (May 4), and outdoor employees like window cleaners and maintenance workers returned to work as the country slowly set about opening up.
The return to freedom from the Covid-19 pandemic will gather pace next Monday with people allowed for the first time in several months to travel beyond their own county, although unnecessary travel abroad remains banned for the time being.
Also from next Monday (May 10), a maximum of 15 people can meet in outdoor gatherings and up to 15 people can conduct outdoor sports training.
Hairdressers, barbers and beauticians have been swamped with requests for appointments in recent days.
Galleries, museums, libraries, and other cultural attractions will reopen from next Monday, and the maximum mourners allowed at funeral services will double to 50.
Also doubling to 50 is the number of guests allowed at a church wedding service, but a reception indoors is still limited to a maximum six guests indoors and 15 outdoors.
But the Republic’s hospitality sector remains closed until June and in some instances and even longer for indoor dining in some premises.
The Irish Mail on Sunday reported that restaurant owners are considering suing the government which is permitting them to only serve customers outside from June 7, although it is allowing hotels to have indoor dining from June 2.
Restaurants Association of Ireland chief executive Adrian Cummins said, “This division is anti-competitive, inequitable, discriminatory and without medical, scientific of public health rationale.
“This also prohibits independent restaurant owners from functioning viably over the summertime and in fact prohibits the re-employment of approximately 110,000 workers.”
Cummins said his association will support a legal challenge if taken by a restaurant owner.
The Mail reported an unnamed government minister confiding that he understood the frustration of restaurant owners and adding, “I would ask them to hold tight, engage with the government and we will have every restaurant and bar back serving customers indoors by July.”
Meanwhile, vaccination programs have gathered pace with about 30 percent of the Republic’s population having received their first jab and most of Northern Ireland’s population vaccinated. Starting this week, vaccine registration for people aged between 59-50 is open in the Republic.
Covid daily illnesses in the North have dropped to double figures with few or zero deaths some days this week.
In the Republic, the illness figures sometimes top 400 a day with deaths in single figures. But hospital and intensive care unit admissions are down considerably.
Health Service Executive figures showed there were 135 people in hospital with Covid-19 on Monday evening. This compares to the 184 Covid-19 patients receiving hospital care one week ago and 250 people hospitalized for Covid-19 one month ago, on April 4.
There were 40 Covid-19 patients in ICU on Monday evening with 26 on ventilators. There had been 56 people in ICU on the same day a month ago.
The Republic’s chief medical officer, Dr. Tony Holohan, has commended the Irish public for sticking with the tough lockdown mandates in place for the past year at great sacrifice.
"For many people, the last year will not have allowed you to be as active as you were previously. This has likely negatively impacted on mobility and fitness, as well as on confidence. It is important to be aware of this and give your body time to readjust to being more active,” he said in an open letter.
"Now is the time to move forward, to go outdoors and to see one another again. As spring turns to summer, we should all take advantage of the bright evenings and warmer weather.”