Taoiseach's speech in full

The Taoiseach's speech in full.

Dia Dhaoibh

One month ago, we started the process of easing very difficult restrictions on all our lives.

 I stood here and explained our strategy and the rationale that underpinned it.

 I set out a path ahead which I believed was responsible and realistic.

 I asked you to continue to exercise caution and to trust the science.

 That evening I promised that the Government would continue to review all of the evidence and that before the end of April we hoped to be able to continue the process of responsible reopening, and to give more clarity on the path ahead.

 The good news is that the strategy is working.

 Because of your hard work and sacrifices, we are in a better place.

A million of our children are now safely back at school, our young people are back playing sport, house building has safely restarted all across the country, vital non-Covid healthcare is being restored, and, critically, our National Vaccination Programme is progressing well.

 By tonight, more than 1.5 million vaccine doses will have been administered.  That means close to 30% of everyone over 16 has received at least one dose of the vaccine.

 In making decisions on what should happen next, the Government has weighed a number of considerations:

 We have looked at the progress achieved in managing the spread of the disease, the impact of the vaccination programme and the need to continue responsibly reopening our society and economy.

 But we have also looked at the risks of moving too quickly.  We have to monitor closely the issue of dangerous new variants and learn from the experience of other countries that are now in the grip of deadly new waves of the disease.

 In particular, our thoughts and prayers are with the people of India.  As a country we are doing what we can to help them through this terrible time.

 As I have said repeatedly, we are determined to do everything we can to ensure that when we open a sector of our society or economy, it stays open.

 

Taking all of these factors into consideration, we now believe it is safe to continue moving forward in two phases over the coming months.

 The next phase will commence on 10th of May, when a series of really important and very welcome freedoms will be restored.

 These include:

  • The resumption of intercounty travel 
  • Click and collect services and retail-by-appointment can begin at all non essential retail outlets, with full reopening on 17th May 
  • Galleries, museums and other cultural attractions can reopen 
  • Our libraries can open again 
  • Religious services can resume, with a limit of 50 people attending  
  • And we can increase the numbers of people able to meet outdoors for social purposes, including in private gardens, to a maximum of either:
  • Three households, or a group of six people.
  • Small organised outdoor gatherings will also be possible with a maximum attendance of 15 people, while outdoor training for adults can also recommence, in pods of a maximum of 15 people.

 And it is with no small measure of personal relief that I can also confirm that on 10th May, hairdressing and other personal services will reopen by appointment all across the country.

 From 10th May there will also be increased opportunities for those who have been fully vaccinated.

 Indoor private home visiting will be permitted, without masks or social distancing in the following cases:

  • Those who are fully vaccinated may visit with other fully vaccinated people, providing there is no more than 3 households present
  • And those who are fully vaccinated may visit with unvaccinated people from a single household, provided they are not at risk of severe illness.

 We will of course continue to monitor closely the effect that these changes have on the spread of the disease.

And subject to the situation remaining stable, we will then proceed with the next phase.

 This would mean that from June 2nd, Hotels, B&Bs, guesthouses and self catering accommodation can reopen for guests and from June 7th, the following further steps will be possible:

 Outdoor services in bars and restaurants can recommence, with sector specific safety measures in place.

  • Outdoor sports matches can recommence, but with no spectators at this time.
  • Gyms, swimming pools, and leisure centres can reopen for individual training.
  • The number of guests attending wedding receptions can increase to 25.
  • And indoor visits in private homes from one other household can begin again.

 Taking these steps will see many thousands of people going back to work for the first time in many months.  I understand how difficult it has been for businesses and workers, and the huge desire there is for people just to be able to make a living again. 

 I thank you for the sacrifice you have made and it is your determination to get back to successful trading which convinces me that our society and our economy will recover.

 As we all prepare for and enjoy the greater freedom of movement I’ve outlined, thoughts will also, inevitably turn to what happens next.

 Clearly, the overriding priority is the continued successful roll-out of the vaccine.

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