Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said today's further easing of restrictions has been made possible due to what he called Ireland's "world class vaccination programme, which is now suppressing the Delta wave".

Mr Varadkar said the return of hundreds of businesses for the first time since March 2020, and thousands of workers, was "another major step forward, as we move towards a new normal".

He said: "While some sectors experienced on and off lockdowns, these sectors have experienced one long lockdown, which ends today."

The Tánaiste said these sectors will initially have to operate with vaccine passes, and at reduced capacity, but these restrictions will be removed on 22 October "all things going well".

He added: "The Government recognises the enormous sacrifices made by staff and business owners in these sectors. We know that continued financial support will be needed."

Among the restrictions easing today, organised indoor events and mass gatherings may return while organised outdoor events and mass gatherings can operate with 75% capacity.

Further restrictions will be lifted on 20 September, including a phased and staggered return to the workplace.

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The Tánaiste also clarified that the EWSS, the wage subsidy scheme, will remain in place "at least until the end of the year" and businesses reopening for the first time will benefit from a bonus CRSS payment.

The reduced 9% VAT is set to remain in place until next summer.

Positivity rate in schools will be watched closely - TUI

The General Secretary of the Teachers' Union of Ireland has said the union will be watching the positivity rates in schools very carefully over the coming weeks.

Michael Gillespie said there is anxiety about Covid-19 in schools, but so far the low positivity rates of the virus is good news.

He said vaccinated students and teachers who are asymptomatic will not have to stay off school, however those who are symptomatic, even if they are vaccinated, will have to restrict their movements and stay away.

Mr Gillespie said it is too early to say if teachers feel safer in their work environment, but that school employees will continue to make the school environment as safe as possible.

He said it was unacceptable that the Department of Education has not met its commitment on
delivering CO2 monitors to schools as promised.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, he said as of last Thursday and Friday, most schools had not received the monitors.

Meanwhile, a priest in Co Cork has said increased numbers in churches will be especially important for funeral masses.

Fr Tom Hayes, parish priest of Enniskeane, said social distancing in churches will remain in place, but each church can now have 50% of capacity.

He said people who were bereaved "have carried the heaviest cross and buried their loved ones with a very small [number of] people in attendance".

Fr Hayes said that communions and confirmations can go ahead, subject to the restrictions, and as some young people have waited a year or more to celebrate their sacraments "that's very welcome".