RURAL Affairs Minister Michael Ring has called for changes to the lockdown rules, arguing there is a difference between 5km travel limit in an urban area and the same distance in a rural area.
Mr Ring said he had raised the issue of the difficulties facing people in rural areas as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions with his colleagues in Government.
Under current lockdown rules people are not permitted to travel 5km beyond their home.
The Government will decide before the end of the week whether to allow this limit to increase to 20km from next Monday under phase two of the reopening plan.
“I’ve raised that issue. There’s a difference between 5km in an urban area and a rural area and I hope that now that we’re coming into phase two of the lockdown that we’ll see changes,” Mr Ring told the Dáil on Wednesday.
The Fine Gael minister observed that there has been a “lot more movement” in the last week and that he hoped decisions will be made by the Government to ease restrictions.
“The whole lockdown has been very hard on people, particularly elderly people that have been cocooning and have not been able to get out of their homes even walking 3km or 5km. It’s not simple and it hasn’t been easy and it’s something that I know government are looking at.”
Mr Ring said he found the lockdown difficult on a personal level.
“What I miss most is actually meeting people, and it’s very difficult when you’re all your life somebody that’s going around talking to people, meeting people, and the next thing all of a sudden that all stops,” he told TDs.
The minister was responding to questions from Labour TD Seán Sherlock who raised issues about the practicality of the travel limits in rural areas. Mr Ring said he could not disagree with Mr Sherlock's assessment.
Earlier, Fianna Fáil’s deputy leader Dara Calleary and the party’s whip Michael Moynihan sought Mr Ring’s view on whether the travel limits should remain in place.
Fianna Fáil has called for the limits to be scrapped in recent days with its leader Micheál Martin arguing there is no “logic or scientific basis” for them.
The Government is considering whether to bring forward plans to scrap the 20km limit three weeks earlier than the roadmap envisages. Under the current plans, the 20km limit, if introduced from next Monday, would remain in place until July 20.
However, Ministers could allow the new limit to expire from June 29 if the virus remains suppresses.