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100 more days - the long road back to normality in 5 stages of exit plan

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking on the steps of Government Buildings yesterday. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland/PA Wire

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking on the steps of Government Buildings yesterday. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland/PA Wire

PA

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking on the steps of Government Buildings yesterday. Photo: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland/PA Wire

The country is facing into another 100 days of strict social distancing regulations under the Government's roadmap for exiting the lockdown.

A five-phase exit strategy has been unveiled by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who last night warned: "It will take time some time for our lives to get back to normal". However, he insisted: "It will happen."

With the country facing into another bank holiday weekend under lockdown, Mr Varadkar announced that older people who have been asked to cocoon can leave their homes for short periods from next week.

However, they are advised to keep cocooning and avoid contact with anyone when they leave their homes.

Shopping

Over-70s will not be permitted to have visitors to their homes or to go to shops until the start of June.

The only good news for the rest of the public is that from Tuesday they will be able to travel up to 5km from their homes to go shopping or exercise.

All other lockdown restrictions will remain in place nationwide until May 18, when the first phase of the roadmap will officially begin.

At this point outdoor workers such as builders, landscapers and roofers will be able to return to work as long as they are following social distancing guidelines.

Garden centres, hardware stores and farmers' markets will be allowed to open, as will other retail outlets including homeware, opticians, motor, bicycle and repair, office products, electrical, IT, phone sales and repair shops.

People will be able to meet in groups of four and non-contact outdoor sports such as tennis and golf will be permitted to go ahead.

After another three weeks, the second phase will begin on June 8 with more restrictions being lifted and more shops being allowed to open, while the non-essential travel ban will be extended to 20km and up to four people can meet indoors for short periods.

The number of people allowed to attend funerals will also be increased and over-70s will be allowed visit shops at set times as long as they are wearing masks and gloves.

Libraries are also expected to open at this point.

During the third phase, beginning on June 29, sport will return behind closed doors, with horse racing expected to resume.

Creches, childminders and pre-schools for children of essential workers will be opened.

Non-essential retail outlets will open, as will playgrounds.

At this point it is hoped people can begin visiting relatives in hospital, nursing homes and prisons.

On July 20, the fourth phase, creches will be reopened for all workers. Small weddings and baptisms will be allowed and there will be an easing of restrictions on low contact services such as hairdressers.

It is hoped field sports will begin, including the GAA, but only a limited number of spectators will be permitted.

Swimming pools will also reopen, as will hotels, hostels, caravan and holiday parks for social and tourist activities on a limited occupancy basis.

By August 10, in the final stage, it is hoped the economy will almost be fully reopened with all sectors back to work.

Large social gatherings will be allowed and pubs, bars and nightclubs can open, where social distancing can be met.

Primary and secondary schools will finally return in August, as will third-level education.

Bowling alleys and bingo halls will also reopen and some mass gatherings such as sports, festivals and cultural events will also be permitted.

Gyms will also reopen and contact sport will be permitted. It is also hoped normal visiting hours for hospitals and nursing homes will return.

Last night, chief medical officer Tony Holohan said if there is continued progress in suppressing the virus, the group has a "high degree of confidence" restrictions can start being eased from May 18.

Health Minister Simon Harris said the "indicative roadmap" may be varied depending on the progress in fighting the disease.

"If it's possible to move more quickly, of course we will do that," he said.

He confirmed that under the plan people will not be able to visit family who live more than 20km away until the phase due to begin in July.

However, he suggested some children will be able to visit grandparents who are over 70 from phase two, which begins on June 8.

Dr Holohan was asked about small weddings, which are due to be allowed in August.

He declined to specify how many people would fall into the definition of a small wedding, saying: "It will depend on the progress we're making."

Mr Harris added: "We are not going to leave one restriction in place longer than it takes to save people's lives."

Patients

He confirmed he is to sign an order to extend the powers of gardai to enforce restrictions until May 18.

Dr Holohan was asked about use of face coverings by the public.

He said medical-grade face masks must be reserved for health workers and patients.

But he said face coverings for the general public in certain circumstances have been recommended in other countries and may form "an important part in easing restrictions" here.

He said the advice may be to use them on public transport and in certain retail settings where social distancing is difficult.

Dr Holohan said work would continue on developing guidance for face coverings in the next two weeks.