Under the reconfiguration of the Government’s Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business announced on the 5th June, there are now just two remaining phases instead of three, with Phase 3 starting on the 29th of June, and Phase 4 on the 20th of July. Further work will be carried out in the coming days and weeks to determine which actions will take place in each phase. Updates to the roadmap can be found at www.gov.ie.
The Roadmap is a living document and Government has demonstrated great flexibility in its decision to accelerate the phases as set out in the original Roadmap.
The input and advice of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) informed the Government’s decision to proceed with Phase 2 and to accelerate elements of the Roadmap. The Government also had regard to a paper which was developed by my Department in conjunction with the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to provide an updated assessment of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and to identify, from an economic perspective, some priority issues for re-opening of economic activity under Phase 2. This paper, “Economic Considerations for Reinstating Economic Activity - Update for Phase 2”, is available on my Department’s website at https://dbei.gov.ie/en/Publications/Publication-files/Economic-Considerations-for-Reinstating-Economic-Activity-Update-for-Phase-2.pdf.
On 8 June the Minister for Health, Simon Harris T.D., signed SI No.206 of 2020, Health Act 1947 (Section 31A – Temporary Restrictions)(COVID-19)(No. 2) Regulations. These Regulations, which shall remain in operation until 29 June, provide for the unwinding of certain restrictions, including the reopening of retail outlets and extending the distance that may be travelled for specified purposes. The Regulations also provide for continued restrictions for some businesses or services and for offences, including in relation to events. Businesses should carefully review these Regulations.
Where a business is not specifically listed, businesses should review the Roadmap and the updates carefully and carry out a detailed assessment of their activities with regard to the continuing public health measures. Businesses should, based on their assessment, identify which category in which phase of reopening they will be in a position to reopen safely and in line with the continued public health measures. It is not necessary for businesses to seek official authorisation to reopen.
The National Return to Work Safely Protocol is a useful guide for businesses in making their assessments and adapting their workplace procedures and practices to comply fully with the COVID-19 related public health protection measures. It sets out in very clear terms for employers and employees the steps that they must take firstly before a workplace reopens, and then while it continues to operate. The Protocol is available at https://dbei.gov.ie/en/Publications/Return-to-Work-Safely-Protocol.html.
The Health and Safety Authority, which is an agency of my Department, is the lead agency in overseeing compliance with the National Return to Work Safely Protocol in the workplace. If employers or employees need further guidance on the Protocol, the HSA Helpline can be contacted at 1890 289 389 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In order to assist businesses to address the challenges posed by COVID-19, the Government has put in place a comprehensive suite of supports for firms of all sizes, which includes the wage subsidy scheme, grants, low-cost loans, write-off of commercial rates and deferred tax liabilities. These supports are designed to build confidence, to further assist businesses in terms of the management of their companies and to allow them to begin looking to the future and start charting a path forward for weeks and months ahead. For a full list of supports for business please see https://dbei.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Supports-for-SMEs/COVID-19-supports/.
I recognise the impact that this pandemic is having on businesses right across the country. I know that employers and employees want to get back to work and I support them in that ambition, but it must be safe to do so. My Department contributed to the considerations around the phased re-opening of sectors under Phases 1 and 2 and I will work within Government to secure further details and clarity for businesses as we progress through the remaining phases in the Roadmap.
It is important to note that all decisions taken by Government on the timing of any lifting of restrictions as envisaged in the next two phases of the Roadmap will be informed by the public health advice at the time.