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Vac to normal Over 225,000 fully-vaccinated people can now meet with friends indoors

In a live televised address, the Taoiseach said “we are on the final stretch of this terrible journey” and he promised to have all over-70s vaccinated by the middle of May.


Stock image. Photo: Massimo Pinca/Reuters

Stock image. Photo: Massimo Pinca/Reuters

Stock image. Photo: Massimo Pinca/Reuters

Almost 225,000 people are set to feel the immediate benefits of inoculation after the Government cleared the way for fully vaccinated people to meet indoors.

Thousands of older people and those working in the health service can now call to each other’s homes two weeks after they have received their second jab.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced the new rules for vaccinated people as he set out his plan for easing Covid-19 restrictions over the coming months.

In a live televised address, the Taoiseach said “we are on the final stretch of this terrible journey” and he promised to have all over-70s vaccinated by the middle of May.

He also said the Government will have six million vaccines by the end of July.

His comments came after he announced people will be able to travel throughout their county, or within 20km of their home, from April 12, while two households will be allowed to socialise outside.

Meanwhile, a range of outdoor activities including golf, tennis and children’s sports training will be permitted from April 26.

Outdoor attractions such as Dublin Zoo and heritage sites will also be allowed to welcome visitors from this date.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) had asked the Government to delay the return of sport until May.

However, deputy chief medical officer Ronan Glynn said the Government’s plan was broadly in line with Nphet’s recommendations.

The Cabinet’s plan also included increasing the number of people who can attend a funeral from 10 to 25 in the last week of next month.

However, regular religious services will not be permitted until at least May, meaning mass will continue to be banned throughout Easter.

Construction of residential housing will recommence on April 12 but commercial building works will not be allowed until May.

Construction Industry Federation director general Tom Parlon said the decision was a “complete own goal” by the Government and said the ban on commercial building work will cost thousands of jobs.

Senior GAA county teams will return to training on April 19, ahead of the national hurling and football leagues returning in May.

The Taoiseach also signalled that non-essential retail along with hairdressers and barbers could reopen in May.

The reopening of libraries, galleries and museums has also been earmarked for May.

The hospitality sector will have to wait until at least June before they can welcome customers, but the Taoiseach said the public can expect to “enjoy much greater freedom later in the summer”.

“This summer, our businesses and our public services will safely reopen. We will finally be meeting and enjoying the company of friends and family once again,” he said.

Fáilte Ireland will today unveil a new €17m fund for hospitality businesses seeking to develop their outside dining areas. Hotels, cafes, restaurants and attractions where food is sold will be entitled to apply for support in outdoor upgrades, through local authorities around the country.

The initiative involves the development of “medium-to large-scale permanent public dining spaces” in towns, aimed at welcoming back visitors when safe to do so.

Each council can apply for up to €200,000, which will allow them to implement weather-proofing solutions to facilitate year-round outdoor dining.

The improvements will include parasols, electric heaters, wind breakers/screens and associated works. Changes to roof structures will also be considered for funding, subject to compliance with planning rules. The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) said the pub sector desperately needs a clear plan on how businesses will be able to reopen later in the year.

Padraig Cribben, VFI chief executive, said: “The pub sector is not calling for a reopening date but we urgently require an understanding of how we get to reopen.”

Mr Martin also faced backlash from teachers, gardaí and childcare workers when he revealed the national vaccination programme will be solely based on age once high-risk and vulnerable people are vaccinated.

The Cabinet decision means younger front-line workers who are already paid less than their older colleagues due to the two-tier public sector pay scale will have to wait longer to be vaccinated. Education Minister Norma Foley, Justice Minister Helen McEntee and Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman raised concerns at Cabinet about the impact of the decision.

However, speaking outside Government Buildings, the Taoiseach said the new vaccination programme may mean teachers and gardaí are vaccinated sooner because the vaccine programme will roll out quicker.

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Irish Independent

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