Nphet gave the green light to allow all major retail outlets with on-street entrances to operate again on Monday. Under phase two of the plan, only small retail outlets were due to be back in business.
And the Irish Independent understands the number of people who can attend funerals will increase from 10 to 25. The move comes despite a slight rise in the crucial ‘R number’, which shows the average number of people each Covid-19 patient infects.
The majority of ministers last night agreed the pandemic unemployment payment for full-time workers should be extended until August in line with the roadmap for reopening the country.
Retail outlets will be required to adhere to strict guidelines and limit the number of customers they allow in their stores at any one time.
Homeware stores including Ikea will also be able to open their doors to customers within days.
An official memo on the pandemic unemployment payment will be discussed by the Cabinet today.
Ministers did raise concerns at last night's meeting about people refusing to return to work because they are better off on the State support for those who lost their jobs during the pandemic.
Speaking after Cabinet, Health Minister Simon Harris said the messaging in phase two will "be about people staying local".
"You're more talking about what you do within your locality, within your communities," he added.
The minister also urged retail outlets to open when it was "safe to do so" and ensure they are following the workplace guidelines.
His comments came after chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan yesterday cleared the path for major chains such as H&M and Zara to reopen.
Customers will be prohibited from using changing rooms or trying on clothes when they are shopping.
However, Mr Harris has told the Dáil that since the first phase of the roadmap started nearly three weeks ago, the R number had slightly increased.
"I can confirm today that our modelling work has shown a slight increase in the R rate.
"This week, the data suggests the reproduction number in Ireland is between 0.4 and 0.7. This is a key metric of ours," he said.
"As this House knows, we need to keep the effective reproduction number below 1.0 and cases low to minimise force of infection, otherwise we carry a risk of an increase in cases and larger outbreaks of disease," he added.
Philip Nolan, chair of Nphet's epidemiological modelling advisory group, said lifting restrictions had so far not had a negative impact on the spread of the coronavirus.
Dr Holohan said there had been a downward trend in the number of hospitalisations, ICU admissions and reported deaths.
"Adherence to public health personal behaviours is essential in avoiding an upsurge of infection in the future," he said.
The Cabinet will consider the advice from Dr Holohan before Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announces the beginning of the second phase of the easing of restrictions. Marts are also earmarked to reopen under phase two.
Sports clubs will be able to hold training sessions. However, they will not be permitted to play matches.
One Cabinet minster yesterday questioned how gardaí would be able to stop someone travelling to visit Ikea or other big stores in Dublin.
"You can forget about people sticking to the travel limit now if the shops are open," they said. "The cat is out of the bag and people will start to ignore it."
Businesses have welcomed reports the Government plans to accelerate the reopening of small and large retailers next Monday.
However, clothes retailer Penneys said it would not reopen yet because it would need time to adjust its stores.
Some business groups expressed concern retailers in shopping centres - especially small shops - would not be permitted to reopen for another two months over fears it could lead to people congregating in enclosed spaces and spread the virus.
"It's welcome news for the entire economy," said Sven Spollen-Behrens, director of the Small Firms Association. "It's good for the vitality of the local town and economies."
However, he acknowledged it would be disappointing for retailers in shopping centres.
Rather than insist they remain closed, he said there were solutions that could allow them to reopen along with shops on streets - such as putting in place a system in which they could operate by appointment via text.
Jean McCabe, deputy chair of Retail Excellence Ireland, said she feared there would be a stampede of shoppers once the doors opened again due to pent-up demand that could see large numbers of people "condensing" in outlets allowed to reopen. "I think there will be a bit of a free-for-all," she said.
But Arnold Dillon, director of Retail Ireland - Ibec's retail wing - said the move would bring Ireland more into line with the rest of Europe.
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