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Ireland on Friday announced a staggered easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions to allow some businesses to reopen and families to gather before Christmas.

In a televised address, Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the upcoming Christmas season “cannot and will not be the kind of Christmas we are used to,” but added that the relaxation of restrictions “will take some break from the rigors of 2020 and especially the last six weeks “.

“In easing restrictions, we go as far as we think it is possible to achieve the best balance between health, economic and social considerations, but not further,” he said.

“The encouraging news is that the efforts and sacrifices each of us have made are working. Lives have been saved,” he added.

According to the measures agreed by the Irish government, all retail stores, museums, galleries and libraries will be allowed to reopen from December 1st as part of social distancing measures.

Under the national “level three” restrictions, individuals can also go to the gym for individual training and attend church services from Tuesday.

Another easing will be introduced on December 4th, allowing pubs serving food and restaurants to reopen. The food must be prepared on site in the premises.

Pubs that only serve drinks will be closed except for take-away and delivery.

During the Christmas season from December 18 to January 6, the government announced that households can mix with up to two other households and travel between counties is permitted.

As of January 7, Ireland has announced that it will review all measures taken the previous month, taking into account the course of the virus.

The government has agreed that face masks should be recommended in crowded workplaces, places of worship, and in busy or crowded outdoor areas with significant gatherings.

In October, Ireland became the first EU country to return to a full coronavirus lockdown.

While schools remained open, all Irish citizens were told to stay home, with a strict travel limit of five kilometers (three miles) for exercise.

Martin praised the public’s efforts to fight the disease, saying the country had “pushed the virus back to the point where we now have the second lowest infection rate in the European Union”.

In the Republic of Ireland, out of 71,699 confirmed cases, a total of 2,043 people were killed by coronavirus.

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© 2020 AFP

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