Return to workplaces set for September 20th under plan to ease Covid rules

ireland
Return To Workplaces Set For September 20Th Under Plan To Ease Covid Rules Return To Workplaces Set For September 20Th Under Plan To Ease Covid Rules
A phased reopening of offices is earmarked from September 20th. Photo: iStock
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By James Ward, PA and Dominic McGrath, PA

Workers are expected to return to the office from September 20th under plans being discussed this evening by Government Ministers.

A two-step approach to lifting some restrictions during September is being considered, with bigger crowds at events such as outdoor sports matches from next Monday, September 6th.

All remaining Covid-19 restrictions look set to be lifted by October 22nd, subject to 90 per cent of adults being fully vaccinated and the incidence of coronavirus stable or falling.

The Irish Times reports that sources were optimistic before a meeting of the Cabinet Covid-19 subcommittee that stadiums would be allowed to reopen with 50 per cent capacity in the first instance, rising afterwards.

Larger religious services such as First Communions and Confirmations are also set to get the green light from September 6th.

Currently, only smaller gatherings for religious worship are allowed.

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A pilot nightclub event could also take place by the end of the month.

The plans were being discussed on Monday evening by the subcommittee before going to Cabinet for approval on Tuesday.

Under current restrictions, remote working is recommended where possible but this advice is set to be amended with a phased reopening of offices earmarked from September 20th.

Earlier on Monday, Green Party leader and Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan said most restrictions would be gone by October. He said one of the key decisions will be around the entertainment industry, including clarity about when it will return.

He also said that a return to offices will require a lot of flexibility from organisations.

Asked whether the restrictions on hospitality, including the 11.30pm closing time, will be lifted, Mr Ryan said it still needed to be worked out.

“Everything won’t change, by the time we get into October most of the restrictions should start to ease,” he said.

“I know the hospitality sector made a point, we don’t want everyone out at the one time, so having staggered opening and closing times makes sense.”

Mr Ryan also suggested that there could be a staggered approach to going back to the office: “It’s lots of flexible approaches in September, with most restrictions being lifted in October.”

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He said some changes will come into effect from September 13th.

“We will start with getting people used to going back to work and training and team work. A lot of people will still be able to do remote working if they find that works better for them.”

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan arriving at Government Buildings in Dublin today. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Changes next week

Meanwhile, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath has indicated that a further unwinding of Covid-19 restrictions will begin from next week onwards.

Speaking to The Irish Times on his way into the Cabinet Covid-19 subcommittee meeting on Monday, Mr McGrath said that he would be confident that from next week “we can start making progress in practical terms in unwinding some of the restrictions that are there and that will be done over a number of weeks into October”.

As expected, religious services are expected to be given the green light to restart in September.

“I think that we are likely to see an early return of Communions and Confirmations as well as other such events,” Mr McGrath said.

“We will also see what we can do in terms of certain indoor activities which have been shut down for so long now. A lot of children who don’t play field sports have missed out on dance classes, gymnastics and other activities indoor, we would like to see them get back as early as possible.”

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Mr McGrath said the Cabinet would signal a shift away from a regulations-based system to one based on personal responsibility.

'Specific dates'

Earlier, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said that the Government will provide the live entertainment sector with “specific dates” for reopening on Tuesday.

The sector has been largely shut throughout the pandemic, with bosses calling on Government to allow it to return as soon as possible.

A meeting between stakeholders and Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister for Culture Catherine Martin ended earlier on Monday.

 

“The Government wants to open up, and to do that as safely as we can,” Mr Coveney told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“One thing we will definitely do tomorrow is give people specific dates so they can plan their businesses and lives around dates in the future.

“That’s what the industry is asking for.

James Vincent McMorrow on stage during Ireland’s first major live gig since the pandemic, at Iveagh Gardens in Dublin in June. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

In a statement on Friday, the Government also said it would engage with the organisers of Electric Picnic over the weekend, with Ms Martin saying she was exploring “all possible options” for the music festival to go ahead.

The chief medical officer has said he would not have concerns about the event going ahead from a public health perspective, if it is limited to only the fully vaccinated.

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The latest figures show that 88.1 per cent of Irish adults are now fully vaccinated, among the highest rates in Europe.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin tweeted on Monday: “88.1% of over-18s are now fully vaccinated in Ireland.

“Very strong performance by the Vaccine Task Force, HSE and all involved in our rollout.

“Vaccination is giving us the protection we need against severe illness – so please get one as soon as you are offered.”

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