By Conor Forrest
A RETURN to some form of normality in Kildare took another major step yesterday (Monday), with the beginning of Phase 3 of the roadmap to reopen society and business.
Cafés and restaurants providing on-premises food and beverages, pubs and hotel bars operating as restaurants, and hairdressers, hotels, hostels, caravan and holiday parks across the county have been given the green light to re-open their doors.
The Emigrant Bar in Athy, which has been doing takeaway for the last eight weeks, will reopen for dining from tomorrow (Wednesday 1 July). Owner Mark Redmond explained that they’re Covid-compliant and up-to-date with what they must do, adding that the venue had been cleaned and sanitised top to bottom on Monday. “I’m looking forward to it,” he said of Wednesday. “I’m nervous, I don’t know what the future’s going to hold, but I’m going to roll in with it, pull up the sleeves and get stuck in.”
Just outside the town, the Clanard Court Hotel will reopen this Thursday 2 July. It has created a Safe Haven Programme to ensure the safety of guests and staff, with measures including optional contactless check-in and a UV-C sanitiser.
Lawlor’s of Naas welcomed customers back from Monday at 12.30pm, with staff working behind the scenes beforehand to get ready. Guests, it has said, must pre-book their table as per HSE guidelines for contact tracing and adhere to social distancing guidelines.
People across the county are also undoubtedly delighted that barbers and hairdressers have and are returning. Roches Barbers Limited, which has shops in Monasterevin, Kildare town and Newbridge and is run by Ciaran Clarke with his wife and business partner Teresa, is among those helping the population to tame their lockdown dos. The shops are operating by appointment only and bookings are being taken via the Nearcut app, their website and Facebook page, or by phone. Customers have been reminded that masks must be worn – people can bring their own or avail of disposable masks for €1.
“We’re all delighted to be back,” said Ciaran, who noted that it took a few hours on Monday morning to get into a new routine. “When people come for their appointments, we can only have three people in the shop at any one time, the waiting area is sectioned off into three sections to give 2 metres in between.”
Hair Affaire in Athy, a stalwart of the town, won’t be returning until later this summer. “Due to the unforeseen circumstances I regretfully announce that we will not be opening on the 29th of June,” proprietor Jo Coyle recently noted on Facebook. “I would like to thank our loyal customers and staff who have supported the business for over 39 years, but in these unprecedented times we have to adapt and adopt. In saying this it is not all doom and gloom, we will reopen in August with a new way of working.”
Nail and brow salons, spas, beauty salons, make-up application services, tanning as well as tattooing and piercing services can also reopen their doors, as can wellbeing services such as massage therapy or reflexology.
Regina Fahy from The Razor’s Edge, a tattoo and body piercing studio in Naas, explained that “we’re very happy to see our customers again”. Measures include only allowing entry for scheduled appointments, staff wearing visors and face masks, and a requirement for customers to have face coverings. “It’s a bit strange with the locked door and people having to make appointments. But, like everyone we’re going to have to just get used to it,” she said. “We’re just glad to be able to go back to work.”
If you’re looking for something to do during your downtime, museums galleries, theatres, concert halls and other cultural outlets can return, as can cinemas, music venues (apart from nightclubs and discos), leisure facilities, bingo halls, arcades, skating rinks and amusement parks.
Religious buildings and places of worship have been given the go-ahead to reopen, as have indoor gyms and exercise facilities, yoga, pilates and dance studios, sports clubs and public swimming pools. Sporting activities can also recommence, including team leagues for kids and adults, close contact sports, as well as organised sporting spectator events and fixtures.
Under the education and childcare banner, a green light has been given to all adult education facilities, creches, childminding facilities and preschools, summer camps, youth clubs, and all indoor and outdoor amenities for children. Among those who returned on Monday morning was Kidz Akademy Creche and Preschool in Kilcullen. Owner Siobhan Geissel explained that “we’re delighted to be back open”, adding that “everybody’s been really supportive”.
She noted that they’ve done infection control training and induction training with the staff “on all of the new protocols and safety measures”. Staff have also undertaken continuing professional development on topics like children’s learning while the setting was closed. “So, using that time really well to prepare for reopening,” said Siobhan.
If all goes well, the final phase of the roadmap will commence on Monday 20 July – pubs, bars, hotel bars and casinos may reopen and gatherings of up to 100 (indoors) and 500 (outdoors) will be allowed.
In the meantime, people can now travel anywhere in Ireland, though all non-essential overseas travel should be avoided. Face coverings are recommended for public transport, retail outlets, and other places where it’s difficult to maintain social distancing.
Indoor gatherings of up to 50 people and outdoor gatherings of up to 200 people are allowed as long as they’re conducted in line with public health advice. Anyone who can work from home should continue to do so wherever possible.
Those aged 70 and over or who are medically vulnerable are advised to remain home as much as possible, maintain social distancing with visitors and use face coverings, and to take advantage of specially allotted shopping times.
Other businesses that have been cleared to reopen include driving schools, all remaining retail (like bookmakers), services and commercial activities, while driving tests and volunteer and other driving services can recommence. Compliance with work protocols and health guidance will be monitored by State agencies.