The Government is considering allowing pubs, restaurants and cafes to reopen outside at the end of May, along with the scrapping of the “substantial meal” rule for pubs.
Personal services, including hairdressers and barbers, could reopen in late May under plans to be discussed at a meeting on Wednesday evening.
Senior sources told The Irish Times they are “hopeful” that outdoor dining could reopen somewhere in the week of May 24th but is subject to agreement by Ministers.
The resumption of driving tests is under consideration for the end of May.
The Government is also said to be “determined” to relax rules on religious gatherings, with numbers permitted at Mass and other occasions of worship likely to be pegged around 50.
Click-and-collect retail services could resume at the beginning of May, with the opening of garden centres also under consideration. Further non-essential retail may be more generally opened later in the month, sources told The Irish Times.
More households may be able meet up outdoors later in the month than is currently allowed, but garden visits are unlikely to be permitted.
Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan indicated on Wednesday that the distinction between gastropub and pub will not feature this summer.
When asked if this meant the end of the €9 meal rule in pubs, he said: “I think we have learned outdoors is safer, not whether you are having chicken nuggets on top of it.”
Mr Ryan also said the reopening of hospitality throughout June will coincide with the lifting of intercounty travel ban.
“Hopefully June will see the summer start in earnest.”
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the Government’s strategy since January had worked.
Speaking on Shannonside FM on Wednesday morning, he said: “The people have responded to it, it has been very difficult for people but the majority of people want the restrictions to work, but they adhere to the restrictions, and by adhering to restrictions we have one of the lowest incidences across Europe”.
“Whatever we open, we want to keep open,” he said.
He said there would be a “comprehensive announcement” on the reopening on Thursday evening, but that progress on vaccinations had opened up room for the removal of some restrictions.
He said the Government is still “going after” its target of giving 82 per cent of the adult population a first vaccine by the end of June, but that there had been setbacks in recent weeks.