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Over-70s could be allowed to go out for walks in eased lockdown

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A garda chats to a passenger in Heuston Station. Photo: Gerry Mooney

A garda chats to a passenger in Heuston Station. Photo: Gerry Mooney

A garda chats to a passenger in Heuston Station. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Older people are expected to be allowed time to exercise every day when the Government begins to ease Covid-19 restrictions next month.

Under plans being developed, over-70s will still be asked to cocoon but they will not be forced to stay in their homes 24 hours a day.

Designating specific times for older people to use parks and local amenities is one measure under consideration.

It is expected the ban on non-essential travel will also be eased to allow people to travel more than 2km from their home. However, a new limit is likely to be set.

Plans are also being drafted to allow hardware shops and garden centres to officially reopen, as long as social-distancing measures are adhered to.

However, one of ministers' main concerns is the well-being of older people.

Allowing them exercise every day has emerged as a key priority for the Government as it develops a roadmap for lifting the virus restrictions on May 5.

Since the end of March, over-70s have been asked not to leave their homes.

"Cocooning will have to remain in place but there might be an understanding that people can get a bit of exercise," a Government source said.

Ministers hope older people living in cities will be able to visit parks, while those living in rural Ireland will be able to take walks in their communities. There is also a push to allow the elderly to tend to their allotments.

Meanwhile, there are increasing fears among ministers that key decisions on the national health crisis are being taken by civil servants.

Ministers are also increasingly worried about the influence of lobby groups such as the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) as they prepare their exit strategy.

Shared

"Older people going for a walk or kids going to school are probably more important right now than construction sites opening," a Government source said.

Another minister said: "I'm not as enamoured of the Nphet [National Public Health Emergency Team] as some of the rest of my colleagues."

Yesterday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said work on a road-map for lifting restrictions was ongoing and would be shared with the Irish people before May 5.

"I think it would be fair to say that among the last things that we'll be returning to normal are major gatherings, you know where you have a lot of people gathering together in a way that's hard to social distance, in a way that's hard to keep people apart by two metres," he said.

"So I suppose they're the things that are most likely to come last and that's not particular to alcohol, it could be mass gatherings of any particular nature."

The Government is also monitoring countries where there are second waves of Covid-19 as it considers plans to ease restrictions in Ireland.

Department of the Taoiseach official Liz Canavan said any moves would be step by step.

She warned that Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore have all seen an increase in infections since easing restrictions.

The Government will be closely monitoring the impact of easing restrictions in EU countries, including Denmark, Austria and the Czech Republic.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein TD Dessie Ellis has been forced to apologise after incorrectly claiming 17 people had died in one nursing home.

In a statement issued by Sinn Fein, Mr Ellis said the deaths required "urgent attention" and called for a consultant-led team to oversee the home.

Shock

The Dublin North-West TD said the 17 deaths had caused "massive shock to the local community and to families in the area".

Mr Ellis named the Finglas nursing home in his statement.

However, not along after it was issued Sinn Fein sent out a retraction and an apology to the nursing home, saying: "Please disregard the previous statement by Dessie Ellis TD.

"This statement was made in good faith, but having received clarification, the figure quoted in this statement refers to the cumulative nursing homes in the Finglas area - not one."

The party apologised to the nursing home and to media outlets which published Mr Ellis's comment.

A Sinn Fein source said: "Dessie just got his facts wrong."