Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Elizabeth Toohig, Helen Lyons and Annette Wyse, at Mount Congreve Gardens’ reopening day. Photo: Joe Evans

AS of this (Tuesday) morning the country takes its first, tentative steps to fully reopening with the recommencement of construction activity and the return of outdoor workers.

The mood of the nation received a welcome lift when An Taoiseach Micheál Martin also announced a phased return of non-essential retail, commencing with click and collect and outdoor retail including garden centres. Also to recommence on a staggered basis are religious services and personal services, including hairdressers, on May 10.

Retailer Penneys announced it is to offer shopping by appointment as a temporary measure in all of its stores in the week prior to full reopening on May 17.

The Taoiseach  also confirmed that pubs and hospitality will reopen for outside business on June 7, while hotels and B&Bs can reopen on June 2.

Business owners in Waterford have expressed excitement at the prospect of welcoming back customers, particularly those in the hospitality sector. The team at the Reg said they are “counting down the days” until they can re-open. The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) deemed the announcement  an “important and welcome first step”, but said Government must now ensure indoor trading can resume as soon as possible.

However, the Restaurants Association of Ireland reacted with “disbelief” that Government is to permit hotel and guesthouse restaurants to operate indoor dining options to their guests from June 2, while restricting restaurants, coffee shops and gastro pubs to outdoor dining only from June 7.

In an open letter Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, said the pandemic has dealt each and every person in Ireland an “unfair hand” in many different and diverse ways.

However, he stated that the ongoing Covid-19 Vaccination Programme offers great hope. To those vaccinated thus far, he said, “You can now get back out there and restart many things you used to do, once restrictions ease from May 10. That might be visiting the seaside, a trip to a museum, a visit with a friend, or a trip to see your grandchildren at long last. It’s important that you look out for the public health advice that is relevant to you and to plan to do it safely – but it’s important to get on and do it.”

However, he said it is not a signal that the pandemic is over. “We have all come a long way and things will improve further but there remains a risk that too much social mixing, especially indoors, in houses and other settings will lead to a further surge of this disease. It is important that we keep up compliance with the restrictions and the public health advice.”

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