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Ireland extends Covid-19 lockdown to 18 May before phased exit | World news

Ireland has extended its lockdown for another two weeks to 18 May, when it will introduce a phased, five-stage exit over three months.

The country’s lockdown regime has been much stricter than the UK’s, but Friday night’s announcement offers a clear, step-by-step map out of the lockdown for schools, shops and businesses as well as the global Irish diaspora including more than 300,000 in the UK, many of whom would normally make visits home in the summer.

The taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, said while the rise in the death rate from coronavirus had flattened it was still too dangerous to ease the lockdown.

While thousands of lives had been saved, “we have not yet won this fight”, he said, adding that two more weeks of tight restrictions to weaken the virus further were necessary to ensure it “doesn’t have the strength to make a comeback”.

The plan will also be of major interest to Irish people living abroad, with the restriction on non-essential travel continuing for some time. However, sources say that Irish citizens have been free to travel to Ireland through the lockdown but have had to self-isolate for 14 days.

Last night’s televised address will have been watched closely by the British government, which is under pressure to release its own clear roadmap for an exit to lockdown.

From May, the five phases of lockdown easing in Ireland are:

Phase 1 (18 May)

  • Outdoor meetings of up to four people from different households will be allowed and childcare for healthcare workers will be opened.

  • Outdoor work, such as construction and gardening, to resume.

  • Some shops, such as those selling stationery and IT equipment and opticians can also reopen.

  • Retail outlets that are primarily outdoors, such as garden centres, hardware stores and repair shops can reopen.

  • Current rules restricting funerals up to 10 people still apply.

  • Schools and college buildings will reopen to teachers only.

Phase 2 (8 June)

  • Visits to a different household by groups of up to four people will be allowed, as long as they maintain a 2-metre distance from those they don’t live with.

  • Small retail outlets can open with physical distancing measures in place.

  • Libraries can open again.

Phase 3 (29 June)

  • Sporting events can resume behind closed doors.

  • Cafes and restaurants can reopen with physical distancing measures and strict cleaning protocols.

  • Playgrounds can reopen.

  • Those with low levels of interaction in their jobs can return to work.

  • Non-essential retail, such as clothes shops, can reopen, but this is limited to those with street-level entrances and does not include shops inside shopping centres.

Phase 4 (20 July)

  • Movement beyond a 20km radius will be allowed.

  • Small social gatherings by family and close friends, including small weddings and baptisms, will be allowed with a maximum number of attendees and physical distancing in place.

  • Larger numbers can visit another household for a limited period of time, while maintaining physical distancing.

  • Those who cannot work at home can return to work.

  • Museums, galleries and churches can reopen.

Phase 5 (10 August)

  • Some larger social gatherings will be allowed, with restrictions in place.

  • On a phased basis, schools and universities can start to reopen.

Varadkar said the last few weeks had transformed people’s lives “in so many different ways and ways that we could not have imagined”. “I know it has been difficult – sometimes dispiriting,” he said.

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