Earlier this week, as Ireland basked in unseasonably glorious sunshine, there was a growing sense of optimism among the Irish public as a further easing of restrictions came into effect.
After a lengthy national lockdown that has been in place since just after Christmas, visitor attractions including zoos, pet farms, and heritage sites once again opened for business.
On top of that, some sports have been given the green light, including golf and tennis, along with non-contact outdoor training for minors.
However, hopes that the government might provide a clear roadmap as to when the country might fully reopen have been dashed after one senior government minister insisted it was important not to get "too far ahead of ourselves."
Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue also said in the same RTÉ interview that the government's cautious and step-by-step approach was the correct one, adding that the powers that be would continue to follow that same science-led direction.
Ireland has now reached a milestone of one million first doses of Covid-19 vaccinations.
But the frustratingly slow rollout of the country's immunization program has had a major impact on the government's apparent reluctance to fully loosen the shackles of lockdown.
The U.K.'s hugely successful vaccination program, which has resulted in over half the country receiving jabs, has allowed Prime Minister Boris Johnson to give the green light to a widespread opening of the economy that seems unlikely to be replicated in Ireland for a number of months.
Exactly what lies ahead in terms of a loosening of restrictions next month and into the summer will become clearer later this week. However, it's likely that the major beneficiaries of the next phase of re-opening will include retailers, hairdressers, religious services, and adult sports training.
However, in an apparent blow to the nation's already beleaguered hospitality sector, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has warned that the country would "not be letting rip" during the summer while indicating that he wanted people to spend the season outdoors as much as possible.
He said, "We're going to continue to follow the science and, of course, outdoor is the key for the summer. Government is committed to that. We know that outdoor is less harmful to the context of the spread of this virus than indoor."
And in reference to the hard-hit hospitality sector, he said, "It's been devastated as a result of this pandemic. But what I said at the outset is, anything we open we want to keep open. We want to end this stop-start approach and many people in different sectors have said that to us."
However, vaccinated tourists from the U.S. could be among the first to be able to visit Ireland in the coming months, once restrictions on non-essential travel are eased.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told The New York Times that the 27 EU states would accept, unconditionally, all those who are immunized with European Medicines Agency-approved vaccines.
"The Americans, as far as I can see, use European Medicines Agency-approved vaccines. This will enable free movement and free travel to the European Union," she said.
The Irish Independent notes that the development would represent a huge boost to Ireland’s economy, as the U.S. and Canada account for about two million arrivals to Ireland every year, behind the U.K.
At present both the U.S. and Canada are on Ireland's mandatory hotel quarantine list. However, overseas visitors who have been fully immunized are no longer required to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks.
As Martin noted, "I don't believe we can seal off Ireland forever. We just can't. We're an interconnected island and we're a global island in terms of economy, in terms of our society, and in terms of our people."
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