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Speech of An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar T.D., Announcement of Phase 1, Friday 15 May 2020

Good evening. I want to talk to you again about the Coronavirus.

I can confirm that it is safe to proceed with Phase 1 of our plan to ease the COVID-19 restrictions on Monday.

Cabinet made these decisions this morning on foot of advice from NPHET. I spoke to the First Minister and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland immediately afterwards by phone.

This gives us reason to hope, but it is not a cause for celebration.  We have a long way to go yet. There will be bumps in the road and we have to keep our guard up. 

If all goes well, we will enter a new phase of reopening our country every three weeks.  The next review will take place on June 5th. To keep going forward, we need to keep following the guidelines.  Everything is provisional and reversible, and our progress depends on us all continuing to do what we have been doing. As the restrictions ease and we come into contact with more people, the opportunity for the virus to spread increases. So, self-discipline and personal responsibility will become more important, not less.

So, the message today is to Stay at Home except for these five exceptions.

Stay at home, except:

1.    to go to work if your workplace is open and you can’t work from home’

2.    to shop for items you need;

3.    to exercise within 5 km of home;

4.    for medical reasons or to care for others;

5.    to meet friends or family outdoors, in groups of no more than four.

As a country we have done a lot to suppress the spread of this virus.  But extreme vigilance will be required until a vaccine, effective treatment or prophylaxis is found, and that might be some time away.

So every day we must continue to follow public health and hygiene advice:

1.       Wash hands regularly;

2.       Maintain 2 metre physical distance whenever possible;

3.       Sneeze or cough into your elbow or tissue;

4.       Stay home and isolate if sick;


And an additional hygiene measure is to use face coverings when using busy public transport or when in enclosed indoor public areas, such as retail outlets. 

From Monday we will be able to meet small groups of up to 4 people outside, while keeping at least 2 metres apart.  Some people involved mainly in outdoor work will be able to start working again, for example construction workers, gardeners, and people tending to allotments. 

Some more stores will reopen and you will be able to shop again in garden centres, hardware stores, and farmers' markets, or get your eyes tested or your car, motorbike or bicycle fixed.   As part of your daily exercise you will be able to play a game of tennis, or a round of golf, exercise and fitness classes outdoors in small groups of up to four people, once you don’t travel beyond 5 km to do so.  Some public amenities such as public beaches and mountain walks will reopen.  In every single case it is vital that we maintain a physical distance of 2 metres.

In three weeks’ time, on Friday 5 June, I fervently hope to be here to announce that we will move to Phase 2.  A further relaxation of restrictions.  This depends on the progress we make between now and then.  Nothing is guaranteed.  The only thing that is inevitable is the spread of the virus unless we push it back every day. 

Coronavirus is a ‘fire in retreat; but it is not defeated. We must extinguish every spark, quench every ember.

We are all bound together in this great national effort and we must rely on each other if we are to succeed.

Thank you.