Ireland will begin to gradually reopen its economy starting next week, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar told a news conference Friday, but called for the population to take proactive measures as social restrictions begin to relax.
The Irish government also created new public safety guidelines that advise people to wear masks or other face coverings when using public transportation and being in public places, Reuters reports.
Ireland introduced social restrictions to combat the coronavirus in March, which included a nationwide stay-at-home order and shut down supermarkets, gas stations and other non-essential services. Ireland, which has a population of almost 5 million, has so far reported nearly 24 thousand cases and more than 1,500 deaths, according to data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. (RELATED: ‘I’m Struggling With Isolation’: Father Who Lost Three Kids Asks For Letters)
The country’s economy was also hit hard as the unemployment rate reached 28.2%, and the state has had to financially support around half of the labor force, according to Ireland’s Central Statistics Office.
The country has since seen the number of new daily cases cut in half, and the “reproduction rate” of the coronavirus has fallen well below the critical threshold, meaning that the spread of the disease has been substantially reduced.
Ireland’s gradual reopening is reflective of a similar trend across Europe, although the country has been more cautious in its approach by dividing its reopening plan into multiple phases. Poland began to ease its restrictions in April, and other European countries have followed suit. Austria opened thousands of stores in April and reported no negative repercussions, while Spain opened up shops and cafes as its number of new cases hit a record low
Varadkar further stated that if the first phase of reopening is successful, the country will enter the second phase, reiterating the importance of following the proper health and safety guidelines in order to prevent more cases. “The only thing that is inevitable is the spread of the virus unless we push it back every day,” he said.