Irish businesses to reopen from Monday

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Almost all remaining businesses will be able to reopen on Monday as Ireland took a major step out of lockdown.

Face masks will be made mandatory on public transport, ministers said, as commuter volumes return to normal.

Air bridges will be established between countries with similarly low infection rates from July 9, enabling people to travel without undergoing quarantine.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar hailed progress in suppressing the virus and said: “We have been able to accelerate the road map.”

The number congregating indoors will be restricted to 50, the Government said.

Up to 200 will be able to gather outdoors using social distancing.

Families will have greater ability to meet up.

Simon Harris said next week would be one of intense joy for families (Brian Lawless/PA)

Other services allowed to commence on Monday included:

– Adult education facilities, creches, pre-schools, summer camps and youth clubs;

– Museums, galleries, theatres, cinemas and other cultural outlets;

– Religious buildings and places of worship;

– Wellbeing services such as massage therapy, chiropractors, hairdressers and beauty salons;

– Driving schools and driving testing;

– The hospitality sector including cafes and restaurants, pubs and hotel bars serving food, hotels and holiday parks.

Ireland has driven down its rate of coronavirus spread well below the critical one number since it entered lockdown in March.

The Taoiseach added: “Businesses are going to reopen.

“People are going to get back to work.

“But we are not complacent about the fact that we are going to be playing cat and mouse with this virus for some time to come.”

A further phase of easing lockdown is expected to commence on July 20, subject to Government approval.

At that point, pubs, bars, hotel bars and casinos may reopen, with the number permitted at outdoor gatherings rising to 500, and 100 indoors.

Mr Harris said requiring face coverings was designed to enable more widespread use of buses and trains as people get back to work.

Traffic into places such as Dublin has increased significantly over recent weeks.

He said: “We are going to get increased capacity on public transport.”

The health minister added it would be “almost impossible” to keep two-metre social distancing so alternative measures such as face coverings were necessary.

Mr Varadkar said air bridges were established between countries with similar incidence rates of the virus.

“The risk of it being imported into the country is no higher than from one county to another.”

He predicted they would see new outbreaks or spikes but it was unlikely they would all be related to international air travel.

The Fine Gael leader reiterated his pledge to keep the border with Northern Ireland open.

He said Great Britain had a relatively high infection rate but there was some time left for improvements before a decision was made on whether to form an air bridge with it.

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