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Cheers! Irish pubs reopen as end of lockdown nears
[DUBLIN] Irish pubs unlock their doors and begin pouring pints on Monday, ending a 15-week dry spell forced by the nation's coronavirus lockdown.
Pubs serving food as well as restaurants and hotels are permitted to open as the republic enters the penultimate stage of its plan to lift stay-at-home restrictions.
All domestic travel restrictions were also lifted, as churches, hairdressers, cinemas and museums opened and mass gatherings of 50 indoors or 200 outdoors were permitted.
But anyone hoping to experience a heaving Irish pub will be disappointed.
Social distancing measures mean drinkers will have to stay seated, with a maximum stay of 105 minutes.
Ireland's 7,000 pubs shut their doors on the eve of St Patrick's Day, which is traditionally marked by street parades and carousing, two weeks before lockdown on March 28.
Anticipation for reopening is high.
"There is a pent-up public demand to return to the pub, mixed with some natural anxiety," said Padraig Cribben, of the Vintners' Federation of Ireland.
Pub industry organisations estimate some 2,000 of their members will open on Monday, while the rest await the final stage of the nation's scheme to reopen on July 20.
Ireland has seen 1,735 deaths in the coronavirus outbreak, according to health department figures on Sunday.
Since peaking at 77 in a day in mid-April, the daily toll has dwindled to single digits in June, prompting the government to quicken its initial "roadmap" to reopen the nation.
The original five-phase plan was reduced to four phases, with shop and pub openings brought forward. Nearly all restrictions are now due to lift in July rather than August.
But chief medical officer Tony Holohan warned Saturday that a growing number of new infections are in the under-35 age bracket.
"This is now a real concern and a worrying trend at a time when many people are reconnecting with friends and loved ones and may be gathering in larger groups," he said.
"Covid-19 is an infection that affects all ages and it is incumbent on all of us to take our individual responsibility seriously."