On Friday May 1st Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced a five stage plan for reopening Ireland after the coronavirus lockdown. This plan will go into effect on May 18th and will continuingly unlock restrictions at three week intervals if Covid-19 numbers continue to be stagnant or lessen. If Covid-19 numbers increase then Ireland may go back into lockdown as a result. The biggest take away from this is that most people are not going to have a bit of craic until stage 4 or 5.

 

Phase 1 will begin on May 18, it will include:

  • Allowing outdoor meetings between small groups of people from different households within a 5km limit
  • Opening up childcare services for healthcare workers
  • A phased return of outdoor workers
  • Opening retailers which are primarily outdoor or those which were open during the first level of restriction (eg opticians, motor, bicycle & repair)
  • Opening certain outdoor public amenities (tourism sites, beaches, mountain walks, golf, tennis, etc)

 

Phase 2 will begin on June 8​, it will include: 

  • Allowing visits to households and travel extended to 20km limit
  • Allowing for a slightly higher number of people in attendance at funerals, but still restricted
  • Developing plans and supports to open up businesses with consideration for safety of staff and customers
  • Opening small retail outlets and marts where social distancing can be observed
  • Opening public libraries and small sport team training groups

 

Phase 3 will begin on June 29, it will include: 

    • Allowing small social gatherings
    • Opening creches, childminders and pre-schools for children of essential workers in a phased manner
    • Phased healthcare visits
    • Returning to work for those with low levels of interaction and non essential retail
  • Opening non-essential retail outlets with street level entrance and exit
  • Opening playgrounds
  • Opening cafés and restaurants
  • Closed door sporting events may resume

 

Phase 4 will begin on July 20,​ it will include: 

    • Opening creches, childminders and pre-schools for children of all other workers on a gradually increasing basis
    • Outside 20km travel allowed
    • Returning to work for those who cannot work from home
  • The gradual easing of restrictions for higher risk services (eg hairdressers and barbers)
  • Opening museums, galleries, places of worship, team sport GAA/football, swimming pools
  • Opening of hotels, caravan parks, holiday parks for social and tourist activities

 

Phase 5 will begin on August 10​,​ it will include:

    • Allowing larger social gatherings (eg weddings)
    • Returning to work across all sectors
    • On a phased basis, commencing at the beginning of the academic year 2020/2021, opening of primary and secondary schools and 3rd level institutions
    • Further easing of restrictions on high risk retail services
    • Return to normal visiting in hospitals
    • Large shopping centres open again
    • Gyms, boxing, rugby, and sports spectators where guidelines allow
    • Open pubs, bars, nightclubs, and casinos
    • Where social distancing and strict cleaning can be complied  with, festivals and events
    • Resume tourist travel to offshore islands by non-residents

 

As other countries look to Ireland for inspiration, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern criticizes Ireland’s five stage plan for exiting the  Covid-19 lockdown. Prime Minister Ardern claims that the strategy is too slow and compares it to New Zealand, in which citizens will be fully back to work by July, whereas that is not the case for Ireland. However, New Zealand saw one of the strictest lockdowns just eight days after the first confirmed case of Covid-19.

 

New Zealanders were forced to stay home, except for essential workers, and you could only be in contact with those you work with. Only one family member at a time could do the food shopping for the whole house. Consequently, all takeaways were closed, all public spaces were closed, and a very strict one in one out rule was enforced for all essential shops. Now many New Zealanders have a voluntary Covid-19 tracing app on their phone to help speed up the process of contact tracing as well.

 

For Ireland this speedy response to Covid-19 did not take place. Ireland’s first confirmed case was February 29th and yet Ireland did not go into a full lockdown until March 27th, almost a full month after the first confirmed case. This delay of response may have been due in part with Ireland’s relationship with the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom had a delayed response on how to deal with the rapidly spreading virus, which resulted in Northern Ireland having different restrictions compared to the Republic of Ireland. This caused some confusion and slight aggression because one part of the island could not be governed the same way as the rest of the island. While people in Northern Ireland could still travel freely, schools in the Republic were closing and people started locking their doors.

 

I believe New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s comments about Ireland’s five stage plan being a slow process is correct. However, it reflects a delayed response by Ireland because of factors outside of the Republic’s control. Unlike Prime Minister Arden, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar could not issue a whole island response against the Covid-19 pandemic. Only time will tell how quickly Ireland will be able to overcome the trials this pandemic has thrown its way. Nevertheless, I believe Taoiseach Varadkar has done the best he could with the tools at hand.

 

 

 

Photo from Cityswift

 

 

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