Inter-county travel is to be permitted from May 10 under plans agreed by the Cabinet Committee on Covid-19.
The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) gave the green light for a major easing of restrictions over the coming weeks.
This includes allowing people to travel throughout the country from the second week of May.
Nphet has said there should be no major easing of restrictions until May 10 at the earliest as coronavirus case numbers are still being reviewed.
However, Nphet recommended that on this date county to county travel may be permitted. The Cabinet Committee on Covid-19 has agreed to proceed with this recommendation.
They also agreed non-essential retailers could resume click-and-collect services, and outdoor retailers such as garden centres should also be allowed reopen in early May. All construction work would also resume on this date.
Today is "a day when hope breaks out among society in Ireland”, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said.
“There is a pathway out of this awful pandemic that we’ve been experiencing for over a year.
“It’s staged, incremental and in line with public health advice, but it is very hopeful,” Minister Coveney said on Morning Ireland.
The dates on which the various stages of relaxation will occur are May 10, May 17, June 2 and June 7, Minister Coveney confirmed.
Hairdressers and barbers will also be allowed open their doors again on May 10, while three different household will be permitted to meet outdoors, including in private gardens from May 10. All non-essential retail will reopen later in the month.
Up to 50 people will be permitted to attend religious services including weddings and masses under Nphet’s advice. However, there will be strict limits on the number of people who can attend the events outside of a church.
Six people will be able to attend a wedding party indoors and 15 outdoors. Hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs can reopen from June 2 and residents can be served food and drink under plans agreed by the Cabinet on Covid-19 by Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.
Restaurants and all pubs, even those that don’t serve food, can serve customers outdoors from June 7.
Gyms are also expected to reopen on June 7.
The number of people who can attend a wedding party indoors would increase to 25 in June under Nphet’s recommendation.
The impact of easing of restrictions in May will be closely monitored before any decision is taken about June.
The Cabinet Committee on Covid-19 debated the Nphet recommendations along with other advice from senior civil servants and will today bring a memo to Cabinet.
The Government is also expected to announce a new ‘vaccine bonus’ allowing people who have received their first jab to meet another – depending on the vaccine they receive.
Those who receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can meet indoors two weeks after their first and only shot. People who receive the AstraZeneca can meet four weeks after their first shot.
People who get Pfizer can meet one week after their second shot and those who get Moderna can meet two weeks after their second shot.
Vaccinated grandparents will also be able to meet grandchildren from May 10 as part of the new vaccine bonus plan.
Minister Coveney said the acceleration of the vaccination programme has enabled this reopening but added “people are still dying every day, so the challenge is to do this in a way that we don’t have to reverse again”.
“People can look forward in May to having people outdoors in their gardens again, adults that want to go training again can do so. Personal services such as hairdressers will be open again in a few weeks’ time.
“People will be able to go back to religious services and intercounty travel will be possible for the first time in months,” Mr Coveney said.
The Foreign Affairs Minister did not confirm if outdoor hospitality will feature in May or not but said “it may do”.
Mr Coveney then went on to say that outdoor dining for pubs and restaurants will occur “some days after” the reopening of hotels and b&bs in early June.
Mr Coveney believes Nphet “got it right” in terms of their recommendations and balancing the easing of restrictions against being responsible with the virus still circulating.
“Many people will want to go faster than this and some people will say we are going too far too quickly. As ever, there will be public commentary and criticism around this, but by-and-large I think Nphet have gotten it right during this pandemic”.
Nphet have advised Government that the current reopening plan brought before cabinet today represents a “low to moderate risk”.
Minister Coveney said some of the driving force behind the suite of recommendations that will be brought to cabinet is the recognition “that we have to keep people with us”.
“People are tired, frustrated, worried about their businesses in terms of survival and so on. The Chief Medical Officer and the politicians last night are conscious of being cautious and incremental in easing restrictions, but also keep a tired and frustrated public with us,” Mr Coveney said.
Meanwhile, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar indicated the 15-person limit for outdoor dining and the €9 substantial meal rule will be scrapped when hospitality reopens.
Mr Varadkar told the Fine Gael parliamentary party the distinction between pubs that serve food and so-called wet pubs that don’t, will be scrapped, and that the Government was “trying to get away” from the idea of a 15-person limit on outdoor dining and that it should be linked to the space available.