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Wide range of social and economic activity resumes

In the Today sees the further lifting of Covid-19 restrictions with inter-county travel and in-person religious services among the activities that have resumed.

In the most substantial easing of restrictions so far this year a range of social and economic activity has resumed. substantial easing of restrictions so far this year a range of social and economic activity has resumed.

Galleries, museums, libraries and other cultural attractions have reopened and public transport is operating at 50% capacity.

A maximum of three households, or up to six people from individual households, can meet outdoors, including in private gardens.

Adults in pods of up to 15 people are also permitted to attend training.

Travel is now permitted between all counties.

Fully vaccinated people can meet other fully vaccinated people indoors and without masks with no more than three households present.

Today also sees the phased reopening of non-essential retail with click and collect and in-store shopping by appointment.

Personal services such as hairdressers, barbers and beauticians can also open after more than five months closed.

In-person religious services can resume. There is a limit of 50 mourners at a funeral.

While 50 guests can attend a wedding ceremony there is a limit of six people for indoor receptions and 15 outdoors.

Up to 15 people are also able to attend other organised outdoor gatherings.

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Meanwhile, 12,000 businesses are expected to reopen their premises this week.

However, the Government has said people should continue to work from home where possible and public health officials have urged business owners, employees and customers to take great care.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has described it as a significant week for business.

"This has been the longest lockdown since the pandemic began. I am determined to do all we can to ensure that it is the last," he said.

However, Mr Varadkar added that where possible, people should continue to work from home.

"The virus is still circulating, and around two thirds of the adult population have yet to receive the vaccine," the Tánaiste said.

"Mixing in the workplace can allow the virus to spread, so we all need to continue playing our part in defeating this cruel virus."

Government supports are to remain in place until at least the end of June to help businesses that are reopening to get back trading again, and to provide ongoing assistance to those that remain closed.

Richard Guiney, Chief Executive of business group Dublin Town, said retail premises are very pleased to see a partial return to business today, but many are financially fragile and need urgent support to survive.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Guiney said that vacancy rates have doubled in some prime retail streets where large international chains have pulled out and streets like Henry Street are vulnerable to this.

He said that at the peak of the last economic recession vacancy rates were over 15% and is now 30% in some streets.

Mr Guiney said there is a real concern about maintaining a level of trade and that urgent interventions are needed to have a city that can function into the future.

Ian Madden, a Cross Fit trainer in Greystones, Wicklow, said it is great to be back and that his gym is hoping to reopen on 7 June .

Before then, they will work at half capacity and outdoor training which, he said, is better than working online.

Mr Madden said there has been a huge fall-off in online attendance over the past 12 weeks as people's motivation dropped.

However, he added that there is a big appetite to get back to training.

Mr Madden said the mental health of the nation has really suffered over the last year and that health and fitness will be really important going forward.

He said he hoped the Government would recognise the importance of gyms and deem fitness to be an essential service going forward.

There will huge challenges for the fitness industry to get staff to return and reopen, he added.

Mr Madden said a lot of staff in the fitness industry have moved to other work during the pandemic, while the fitness industry has seen a huge drop in revenue.

Fr Pat O Donnell, parish priest in Rathmore, Co Kerry, and member of the Covid-19 working group, said he will be delighted to welcome people back because he has missed them, and he knows that communities have missed gathering together.

Fr O'Donnell said Zoom meetings are great but "there is nothing like meeting people and being with people".

He added that the only contact priests have had with the community over the last few months is through funerals.

He said he was confident that churches are safe to reopen because there are great systems in place and a huge level of volunteers to ensure people are safe in churches.

Fr O'Donnell said the increase in attendance at funerals and weddings will be "huge" for people.

Also speaking on Morning Ireland, he said that communions and confirmations still cannot take place and will most likely take place in the autumn.

Patients in hospital with Covid-19 continues to fall

The number of patients with Covid-19 in hospitals continues to reduce.

Latest figures put the figure at 124, the lowest number since early October last year.

At the peak of the third wave, there were 2,020 confirmed cases in hospitals, on 18 January last.

Of the 116 patients in hospital with Covid-19, 31 are in Intensive Care Units.

This is the lowest number in ICU recorded this year.

The peak of ICU admissions was 221, on 24 January last.

Meanwhile, latest figures show that over 1.8 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines were administered by the Health Service Executive up to last Saturday, 8 May.

So far, almost half a million people have been fully vaccinated.

To date, 140 doses of the singe-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered.

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