Covid restrictions Ireland: 'An important step forward' – Taoiseach confirms reopening plan as Covid-19 restrictions lifted by October 22 – Independent.ie

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Covid restrictions Ireland: 'An important step forward' – Taoiseach confirms reopening plan as Covid-19 restrictions lifted by October 22 – Independent.ie

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photo: Julien Behal Photography/PA
Public transport will resume to full capacity from tomorrow. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Office workers will be able to return from September 20. Photo: Stock image
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Ciara O'Loughlin
August 31 2021 05:53 PM
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has announced the Government’s plan for the “new normal” as he said the country was taking “an important step forward” after the ravages of the pandemic.
Mr Martin pledged that we would “rebuild our economy and society” as he confirmed the details of reopening signed off by Cabinet earlier today.
Mr Martin said the public had “looked after each other” during the most difficult period of the Covid-19 pandemic.
But as he announced the key dates for the reopening of society he cautioned that the “pandemic is not over”.
Mr Martin confirmed that remaining Covid-19 restrictions will be lifted by October 22 as the Government puts more of an emphasis on guidelines and personal responsibility.
Mr Martin said: “Our number one priority had to be the protection of peoples lives and public health.
“Protecting lives and public health has demanded policies that has often been frustrating.
“Despite these frustrations we kept our head as a country, we stuck together, we followed the best advice, we did what we were asked
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“As a result we protected a greater amount of people than other countries
“It has not been a straightforward journey.
"We are now entering a whole new phase of the pandemic.
“I never thought there would be a day where we could announce the pandemic is over, we are very unlikely to say to be rid of this virus completely.
“We will likely see an increase in numbers of the coming weeks.
“Sectors that remain closed can begin to hope again.”
Mr Martin also praised the public for the sacrifice they have made throughout the pandemic.
He added: “Today we are taking an important and welcome step forward. As a nation we have great resilience, we have weathered many storms.
“Over the last 18 months we have drawn on all of that and we have endured and now we will push on with our vaccination programme including a booster programme commencing in the coming weeks.” 
Speaking at a press conference after Mr Martin’s address, the Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said October 22 should not be viewed as “freedom day” but the first day of a "new normal". 
Mr Varadkar said this will include a hybrid working system where office workers can work between home, remote hubs and the office.
He added that “the pandemic is definitely not over” as many other countries are still heavily struggling with the virus, including the US, Australia and New Zealand where vaccination rates are low.
Taoiseach Michéal Martin clarified that from September 6 the illegal prohibition of dancing will be removed, however, it will still remain under public health guidance that dancing shouldn’t take place in premises’.
“On the dance, the public health advice still prevails,” he said. “We do believe removing the regulatory prohibition on dance should happen.”
The 11.30pm curfew on bars and restaurants will not be lifted until October 22.
Mr Varadkar said: “The 11.30 closing rule and six to the table remains in place until October 22 but then its back to the pre-pandemic rules.”
After October 22, the only places where face masks will be mandatory is healthcare settings, public transport and shops.
This evening’s announcement is the Government’s new living with Covid plan and the roadmap for the easing of all restrictions. However, this could change subject to the population’s vaccination percentage and the number of people in hospital with the virus. 

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Public transport will resume to full capacity from tomorrow. Photo: Gareth Chaney
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Public transport will be operating at full capacity from tomorrow which will mean commuters sitting beside each other again for the first time since the pandemic started.
The requirement to wear masks on trains and buses will remain in place for some time to come.
Organised live indoor events and large outdoor gatherings will be permitted from next Monday under new rules to be agreed by the Cabinet this afternoon.
Indoor venues will be able to fill 50pc of their seats with people who are vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 in the last six months.
Large outdoor sports stadiums and venues will be able to host 75pc of their full capacity if they are only admitting vaccinated or Covid-recovered fans.
Outdoor venues allowing a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated supporters can operate at 50pc.
It will be up to the sports ruling bodies to decide on whether they accept mixed or fully vaccinated crowds.
Live music at weddings will be permitted from this date too. Although, the limit of 100 on guests and the 11.30pm closing time will remain in place.
Coach tour activity can recommence at 50% capacity with protective measures.

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Office workers will be able to return from September 20. Photo: Stock image
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A return to work on a staggered basis will begin on Monday, September 20 and the Government will urge employers to take a common-sense approach to returning to offices.
It will be advised that employees return on a phased basis – possibly beginning with 25pc of the workforce and moving upwards over time. A one-metre social-distancing rule will apply for desks in offices as long as other protective measures are taken.
The ban on other indoor activities will also be lifted on this date.
That means indoor sports and exercise classes such as yoga can resume.
Dance classes, band practices, choirs and bridge clubs, along with community activities such as Men’s Shed meetings can also return. Indoor basketball and soccer will also be permitted.
Where people have mixed immunity status, pods of up to six participants will be permitted (excluding adult leaders/teachers).
Depending on a number of factors, including 90pc of all people aged over 16 being vaccinated, the remaining Covid-19 restrictions will be lifted on October 22.
Other criteria such as the number of people in hospital due to the virus will be taken into account before a final decision is made.
However, the plan is to end all public health regulations on this date and move towards guidelines and personal responsibility.
The Cabinet has agreed a plan to drop any formal requirement for physical distancing and ditch the limits on private gatherings for unvaccinated people in homes and gardens.
The remaining restrictions on the hospitality sector and live entertainment industry, including the need for Digital Covid Certificates, will also be dropped by the end of October.
People will also still be required to wear face masks in healthcare settings, indoor retail and on public transport.
The Taoiseach also said face coverings for students in secondary schools after October will be “subject to review”.
Meanwhile, the requirement to self-isolate when people have symptoms will remain.
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