With the return of non-essential retail and close contact services like hairdressers and beauty salons, an air of normality is slowly starting to return.
Another big step in the reopening of the economy will take place next month, with accommodation services reopening on June 2nd, followed by the resumption of outdoor dining on June 7th.
So, what's left for the Government to announce later this week?
What measures are up for discussion?
The Government will consider the reopening of three areas of the economy which have faced the brunt of Covid restrictions over the past 14 months – indoor hospitality, live events and international travel.
Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said this week's Cabinet discussions addressing the “three trickiest sectors” would be “very significant”.
These sectors have been approached with great caution due to the risk of indoor settings and large crowds enabling the virus to spread, while international travel raises the concern of bringing new Covid variants into the State.
When will these sectors reopen?
Government sources have indicated these three sectors may return in July.
Indoor dining is expected to get the go-ahead early in the month, however, the Restaurants Association have called for this date to be brought forward to June 2nd, as accommodation services will be permitted to serve residents indoors from that date.
Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin has also drawn up plans for test events to take place from June, covering sport, music, comedy and theatre.
Ministers have indicated spectators will be permitted at selected sporting events over the summer. Initial crowds will not exceed 5 per cent of total capacity, but will increase as the summer progresses according to The Irish Times.
International travel will mainly hinge on the adoption of the EU's digital green certificate system, which Ministers are hoping will be adopted here “as soon as possible”.
*Data in the above map relates to May 21st-25th for all countries except the Republic of Ireland, due to delays in confirming daily/weekly vaccinations caused by the recent cyberattack on the HSE. Irish data relates to figures from May 11th.
So, do we know when we will be allowed to go abroad?
Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath said the Government's priority was to “get planes back in the sky”, so the signs are positive that we'll be moving again soon.
On an EU-front, the digital green certificate system will come into effect on July 1st following its approval by EU leaders. From that date, EU member states will have six weeks to adopt the new measures, meaning countries could reopen to EU passengers from July/early August. Ireland is expected to adopt the system in mid-July.
It is unclear whether an update for quarantine/testing requirements will be given this week for countries not aligned with the digital green certificate system, but a number of Government TDs have spoken out in favour of rolling back the State's mandatory hotel quarantine.
Clare TD Cathal Crowe (FF) argued the measures should not apply for EU member states, and countries with vaccination rates much higher than ours, such as the US, while Dublin Bay North TD Richard Bruton (FG) said there must be a balance between public health guidance and the detrimental impact of restrictions.
An update may also be offered on the reopening of the Common Travel Area between Ireland and Britain, as Tánaiste Leo Varadkar previously suggested this would be a first step in the resumption of international travel. However, growing concerns regarding the spread of the Indian virus in the UK may impact those plans.
What will dining out be like when it reopens?
Fáilte Ireland published new guidelines for the hospitality sector on Wednesday ahead of the next stage of its reopening in June.
The guidance includes:
- A six-person limit per table, 15 people when children under 13 are included
- No live/loud music
- 11.30pm closing time
- Table service only
- One-meter distance between tables inside and outside
- No outdoor time limit, and no indoor time limit if a two-meter distance is observed between tables
- Face masks at all times, except when diners are seated at their table
When will there be an announcement?
The announcement from Taoiseach Micheál Martin is due to take place following a meeting of the Cabinet on Friday.
As with previous reopenings, the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) first meet to discuss the current outlook of the virus, before passing their suggestions to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.
Mr Donnelly confirmed in the Dáil that he met with chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan earlier today, saying he was happy to report "Nphet's view is that the trajectory is positive".
The full Cabinet will discuss the proposed measures on Friday, which, if approved, will then be shared at a public address by Mr Martin, followed by a press conference where the three coalition leaders will answer questions.
Are we in a good position to be reopening?
It seems so.
The easing of restrictions over the past few weeks has not led to a spike in Covid cases or hospitalisations, with the Covid vaccine rollout and adherence to public health measures getting the credit.
A majority of people in vulnerable groups are now vaccinated and the transmission of Covid is expected to further reduce as younger cohorts receive their jabs over the coming months, making the next stage of reopening this summer a less risky affair.
On Tuesday, the Taoiseach tweeted the State is thought to have now passed the 2.5 million mark for vaccinations, and weekly doses are set to increase to over 400,000 from next month.
The increasing speed of the vaccine rollout has led to increased confidence among the Government that the target of having 80 per cent of eligible adults vaccinated with their first dose by the end of June will be met, putting us in a strong position to get back to somewhat-normal life.