Wage scheme and jobless payments to be in place until end of August

A dramatic escalation of the roadmap to reopen Ireland is on the cards, with the Cabinet on Friday considering accelerating entire phases of the existing plan.
The 20km limit may be scrapped early, some pubs could reopen this month and the total lifting of travel restrictions is under discussion.
Well-placed sources have said the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) has asked if it should examine if entire phases can be brought forward or merged.
It is understood, however, that significant work would have to be done before this could be deemed to be possible.
Minister for Health Simon Harris said on Thursday night that all the indicators look good in relation to moving to the next phase of easing restrictions.
I expect tomorrow I will hopefully be in a position to proceed with phase two, he said.
On Friday, Minister for Business Heather Humphreys confirmed the message would be changing from stay at home to stay local.
It will be stay local and I would also ask people to shop local and stay safe, she told RTÉ Morning Ireland.
Under phase two, which starts on Monday, the travel limit will increase from 5km to 20km and groups of up to four people can visit other homes, as long as they observe social distancing. It is also planned that small numbers of people should be allowed visit the homes of those over 70, or medically vulnerable, wearing gloves and face coverings.
Nphet has also signed off on additional restrictions being lifted in the second phase of lockdown relaxations.
The opening of larger retail stores is to be brought forward and will see some bigger shops open from next Monday, though Penneys has said it will not be in a position to do that.
Other measures singed off by NPHET include further measures to help children with special needs and a return to some educational and summer camp activities along with the reopening of playgrounds – subject to supervision and cleaning. It also signed off on changes to allow visitors into nursing homes in certain circumstances but with strict guidelines on who will be permitted while ensuring visitors observe appropriate hand hygiene and maintain physical distancing from residents. Most nursing homes have restricted visitors since March apart from exceptional circumstances.
A number of other measures may also be accelerated including the lifting of the travel limit altogether. The 20km limit was initially intended to apply until the end of phase 3 on July 20th, when people would be allowed travel around the country, but it is now expected to be lifted on June 29th, at the end of phase 2.
It is not clear if hotels, B&Bs and other tourism businesses will be allowed open at the same time. These were also initially planned to open on July 20th.
Meanwhile, hundreds of pubs are expected to reopen weeks earlier than anticipated at the end of the month as they have restaurant licences.
Sources have said the Government will give the green light for the move in the coming days following meetings with industry figures. Chief executive of the Licensed Vintners Association Donall OKeeffe said while his group was awaiting final clarification, hundreds of pubs are in full-scale active planning for reopening.
Under the Governments roadmap for reversing Covid-19 restrictions, pubs are not due to reopen until phase 5 which starts on August 10th. A senior source confirmed that those with restaurant licences will be permitted to open their doors on June 29th.
Mr Harris cautioned that moving from one phase to the next was not inevitable and not guaranteed. And he said there were no current plans to change the social distancing guidelines from two metres to one.
It comes as a further five deaths of people diagnosed with Covid-19 were reported by NPHET on Thursday. This brings to 1,664 the total number of deaths in the Republic.
NPHET also reported another 38 new cases of the disease, bringing the total number of cases to 25,142.
Chief medical officer Tony Holohan warned that house parties are being organised with abandon, as though we werent in the midst of a pandemic.
There were good public health reasons for these things not to happen at present, he said, adding indoor activities would be permitted in later phases of the Governments roadmap.
Meanwhile, the scheme which sees the State subsidise the wages of about half a million workers is expected to be extended until the end of the summer by the Government.
The Cabinet is also expected to extend the special Covid-19 unemployment payment for the same period, although it will be split into two bands.
Those earning less than 200 will be on the first band and will receive 203 a week, in line with unemployment benefit, and those earning above 200 will still receive the current 350 payment.
A memo for the Cabinet meeting says the temporary wage subsidy scheme and the unemployment payment will remain in place until the end of August, with a decision on what to do at that point expected to be made by the next Government.
Retailers are warning of rumblings among them that shops will defy the Governments roadmap on easing lockdown restrictions by reopening early as fears mount of businesses collapsing during the months long closure.
Business group Retail Excellence said it was lobbying Government to bring forward the reopening of shopping centres from August 10th to July 29th so that it can still control the easing of restrictions.
The groups deputy chairwoman Jean McCabe also claimed a limited reopening of shops on Monday, under phase two of the road map, will lead to a pent up demand on a smaller shopping footprint which, she said, would make social distancing more difficult.
Imagine being a footwear retailer with a store full of summer sandals, and you were watching your competitor sell out his stock for the next two months while you remain closed, she told RTÉs Morning Ireland.
Some retailers just cannot wait, they have been closed for such a period of time, and there are rumblings that some just wont wait.
So we are urging Government to reconsider that (date), and bring it back, she said.
Ms Humphreys suggested mitigating measures to discourage groups gathering in shopping centres could be considered as part of a plan to reopen them.
I fully understand the concerns of retailers in shopping centres. I understand the points they are making and have been engaging with them. Obviously I will be making the case for them, she said.
But on the other side there is a public health concern around people congregating in confined spaces. Maybe we can look at mitigating measures that we can take to deal with that.
Ms Humphreys said she would be raising the issue at Cabinet on Friday. She said she didnt have any estimate for the number of businesses that will collapse as result of the lockdown, but urged any small retailers reopening on Monday to apply for the Governments restart grant and wage subsidy scheme.