Simon Coveney confirms "significant" changes in restrictions from 10 May
He also said he thinks we could see a plan for international travel in May.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney has confirmed there will be "significant" changes in restrictions from 10 May.
The Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19 met on Wednesday night to discuss the National Public Health Emergency Team's (NPHET) recommendations for the reopening of Ireland's economy in the months ahead.
It is understood that NPHET gave the go-ahead for a major easing of restrictions over the coming weeks and months, including the reopening of inter-country travel from 10 May.
Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast on Thursday, Coveney confirmed that reports in the media on the easing of restrictions are "by large are accurate".
"For many people the recommendations made by the Chief Medical Officer and his team are a cause for hope, and hope is starting to break through now," he said.
"From 10 May, there will be changes in restrictions, quite significant ones, I don't want to start confirming things this morning, because we have to bring this to Cabinet, but the media reports today by large are accurate I think.
"I think it's unlikely the Government will mitigate greatly from that today, but this essentially means, initially, a focus on outdoor activities, but whether it's outdoor training, whether it's people meeting their neighbours for the first time in many, many months in their own gardens, whether it's click and collect for retail, initially and then a phasing in to a full reopening of non-essential retail, whether it's the opening of personal services like hairdressers and beauty salons and so on, whether people want to visit museums, galleries, and libraries again, there is a pathway for all of that.
"I think it is staged, it's not everything all at the same time, it's 10 May, 17 May, and then again in June, we have a staging of accommodation and leisure facilities. Again, focussing initially on accommodation, hotels, and B&Bs, then a week or so later, focussing on pubs and restaurants and gyms and swimming pools and so on. I think people still need to be careful though."
When asked if the decision made by NPHET to speed up the restriction easing process came as a surprise, the Minister said that the possibility of opening up came as a result of the vaccination rollout programme, and a number of other factors.
"I think the rationale was driven by a number of things. First of all, we have to keep people with us on this journey, and that gets more and more difficult as time moves on, month after month, in the context of restrictions," he added.
"I think there is a recognition that if we're going to keep people with us through the end of this journey we hope, where vaccine numbers will significantly be ramped up, and where the numbers of people getting Covid will continue to fall and we ease out of restrictions, it's really important that decision makers and Government are in tune with the mindset of the public if you'd like, who are tired, who are frustrated, who are worried, and want to see some hope."
Coveney also gave an update on international travel, saying that it's likely the Government will put a plan together in May to give people an indication of when international may be able to return.
"I do think, in the month of May, you will see the Government putting a plan together to give a line of sight in terms of how and when we will be able to facilitate international travel again, but it will be later on in the summer," he continued.