Ireland’s foreign minister has confirmed the nation will proceed with its plan to lift national lockdown restrictions after the government hit its joint goal of bringing the virus under control and vaccinating enough residents.
Speaking to Ireland’s RTE broadcaster, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney stated that the government expects the country to have a “much more hopeful and positive summer” after officials managed to put “a lid on the spread of this virus.”
The path out of lockdown, which will be formally signed off by the Irish cabinet on Thursday, will allow retail stores, personal services and non-residential construction to restart in early May and hotels, restaurants and bars to reopen a couple of weeks later, earlier than the previous timeline of June.
The soon-to-be relaxed restrictions will allow citizens to travel anywhere around Ireland from the second week of May for the first time since the country entered lockdown five months ago.
While Ireland has only confirmed 247,489 cases of the virus since the start of the pandemic and has one of the lowest infection rates in Europe, the government has been slow to reopen over concerns about another spike.
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The government’s previous relaxation of restrictions towards the end of 2020 saw the nation faced with a third wave of the virus and concerns about the impact of new, mutated strains of Covid.
Alongside the foreign minister’s comments on relaxing domestic restrictions, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, Leo Varadkar, said that the nation is preparing a phased return to international travel, with an announcement expected by the end of May. Currently, arrivals into Ireland from 71 countries, including Brazil, France, Italy, and the US, must quarantine for 14 days in a hotel; individuals visiting from other nations, including Northern Ireland, must quarantine at a specified residence for 14 days.
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