DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ireland will press ahead with plans to reopen all retail stores, personal services and non-residential construction in May with hotels, restaurants and bars to follow sooner than expected in early June, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on Thursday.
The government committed a month ago to reopening all shops for the first time this year in May and hotels in June if it could avoid a fourth wave of COVID-19 disease and speed up its vaccine programme – criteria that it has met.
Coveney said the plan to be signed off by ministers later on Thursday would permit hotels to open their doors again on June 2 with restaurants and pubs – not mentioned a month ago – allowed to serve guests outdoors from June 7.
People will also be able to travel anywhere in the country for the first time since late December next month, he added.
“We will I hope be able to manage all of that change in a way that keeps a lid on the spread of this virus but at the same time provides for a much more hopeful and positive summer than perhaps many people were expecting even in the last few weeks,” Coveney told national broadcaster RTE.
Ireland has one of the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in Europe but is opting for a slower reopening of its economy than most of its European peers after a relaxation of measures in December triggered a huge spike in cases.
It has also put in place the EU’s toughest restrictions on international travel, including forcing arrivals from countries including the United States, Canada, Belgium, France and Italy to quarantine in a hotel for up to 14 days.
Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Wednesday that a plan for a phased return to international travel this summer should be agreed by the end of May.
(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Hugh Lawson)