Published on 

Speech of An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar T.D., Announcement of Move to Phase 2

Check Against Delivery

Good afternoon.  As the Roman Statesman Cicero said ‘the safety of the people shall be our highest law’. This is the approach we have taken since the pandemic was declared in March. Today, I can confirm that it is safe to move to Phase 2 of the plan to reopen our country from Monday. This has been made possible by the considerable sacrifices that you have made to restrict the spread of the virus and protect others. 

Thanks to your perseverance in pushing back COVID-19 I am announcing an acceleration of the Roadmap. 

Over the last few months fear has exerted a kind of gravity pulling us down, but now we find there is hope lifting us up again.

During this Emergency we have suffered as a country, lost loved ones, and changed the way that we work and live.   We are making progress. We are heading in the right direction. And we have earned the right to be hopeful about the future again.  

Based on the medical evidence and the recommendations of NPHET and Government reports on the economic and social impact of Covid-19, Cabinet today agreed to implement all elements of Phase 2 and move further along the roadmap, a kind of Phase 2+. We have also agreed to bring forward the actions in the remaining phases. So, there will now just be four phases rather than five. Phase 3 will start on the 29th of June, and Phase 4 on the 20th of July. Under the guidance of the CMO, we will work out in the days ahead which actions will take place in each. Some measures such as bans on mass gatherings may need to remain in place well into August as will public health advice around hygiene and physical distancing.

The Tánaiste and I informed the First Minister and Deputy First Minister on these decisions earlier this morning

I have always said that we would accelerate the reopening of our country, but only if it was safe to do so.  Thanks to your actions we have now reached that point, and with your help we will keep moving forward. So we all need to stick to what we have been doing right – washing our hands regularly, keeping 2 metres apart wherever possible, observing coughing and sneezing etiquette, avoiding crowded places, wearing face coverings on public transport and self isolating when sick. As we ease restrictions and meet and interact more, this will become more important.

I know this has been a particularly difficult period for those who are over 70 and those who are medically vulnerable, and many have yearned to break free from their cocooning, a term itself that some have found insulting, instead of reassuring. 

Now there is hope and there is cause for hope. From Monday it will be permissible for people in this category to welcome a small number of visitors to their homes, although we are asking that physical distancing is still observed. Shops will also provide dedicated hours for those who are over 70 or in an at risk group. 

It is important that people continue to avoid unnecessary travel. 

So our message today and for the next three weeks is to Stay Local.

We recognise the difficulty that the travel restrictions are having, especially for people in rural Ireland. From Monday people can travel within their own county, or up to 20 km from their homes, whichever is greater. It is planned to remove these domestic travel restrictions all together at the start of Phase 3, on the 29th of June. 

In the meantime, they remain legally enforceable by the Gardaí. We want people to stay local and to stay in their own county so the virus is not introduced into counties that are Covid-free today.

From Monday, groups of up to 6 people will be able to meet with each other indoors or outdoors, once they keep at least 2m apart. 

Groups of up to 15 people can meet for outdoor sporting activities.

Solitary workers can return to their workplaces as can people who maintain a physical distance from others in their workplace, on a phased based. Working from home should remain the norm for those who can

Up to 25 people will be allowed to attend funerals of loved ones, pay their respects and grieve together.   

Public libraries can open on Monday.

There will be a new Summer Education Programme for children with special educational needs and disadvantage, as it is now safe to do so. Minister McHugh will bring proposals in this regard to Government next week. 

Outdoor facilities and amenities for children – including commercial ones - can re-open.

Playgrounds once supervised can reopen on Monday, and outdoor camps for children can also be run, once there are no more than 15 people mixing together.

Elite athletes may return to their training facilities.

Marts can re-open and greyhound racing resume without spectators. 

We are also approving the reopening of all shops from Monday.

It is important that the return to retail does not create crowding on public transport or interfere with essential workers getting to work. Therefore, shops reopening – the ones not already open - will be required to operate staggered hours, opening no earlier than 10:30am and allocating dedicated time at the start for elderly, vulnerable and at-risk groups. 

Shopping malls can re-open on June 15th provided only the shops open and measures are taken to ensure people do not congregate at benches, fountains or food courts for example.

Summer is not lost and this can be a summer of hope if we keep the virus at bay.

So, Cabinet decided today to plan a return of the tourism and hospitality sectors on June 29th as part of a revised phase 3. 

We want to see the return of domestic tourism in our country, and the re-opening of hotels, restaurants, hostels, caravan parks, galleries and museums from 29th of June. Making it possible for bars that also operate as restaurants to reopen. Make it possible for us to explore our country as if for the first time and rediscover the beauty that is all around us. We also want placed of worship to resume services again, with precautions.  

As our country opens up and we start interacting more, personal responsibility becomes even more important than ever. We got into this fight against COVID-19 together, and we will only get out of it together. 

We will be reinforcing this message in new public information campaigns over the coming days.

So, this afternoon let me end with words of hope, ‘In the end, it’s only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer.’ 

Thanks to your hard-work, your choices, and your perseverance, that new day is approaching.   

Thank you.