IRELAND IS set to finally come out of lockdown in the coming weeks, after an optimistic speech from Taoiseach Micheál Martin yesterday evening.
The Taoiseach opened his speech by thanking everyone in Ireland for their sacrifice over the past year, and particularly since Christmas, when the country was in the throes of the most severe and dangerous spike in infections seen since the pandemic began.
"Each and every one of us has an image in our head of a moment we are looking forward to enjoying when we get through this," he said yesterday.
"I know I have."
"Tonight, each and every one of us is closer to enjoying that moment than we have been for a long time."
Mr Martin went on to confirm what most Irish media had been reporting: that from early May through to June, the economy would be reopening quickly and decisively, but while still remaining cautious.
Inter-county travel will return on 10 May, as will house viewings and personal services such as hairdressers, via appointment only. Click and collect will return for non-essential retail, and shops will open in person on 17 May.
From 17 May, three households can meet outside in a garden, up to 50 can attend Mass, weddings and funerals; 2 June will see the reopening of hotels, and residents can eat and drink in the hotel's restaurants, but independent restaurants and bars will not open until 7 June for outdoor dining-- but there will be no need to eat a meal with your pint, and 'wet pubs' can open at the same time as gastropubs.
Gyms, swimming pools and leisure centre will also reopen on 7 June, and the number of people at an outdoor wedding party increases to 25. Outdoor sports matches can be played with no spectators, and visitors from one other household can visit you inside your home.
The vaccines are the key to beating the pandemic, Mr Martin said, and urged people to continue sticking to the rules as they change to prevent a surge in cases before the vaccines have the chance to do their job.
Over one million people in Ireland have now received their first dose of the vaccine; from next week, those over the age of 50 will be able to apply.