Today marks a significant step on the roadmap to reopening the country, as people can open the doors of their homes again to visitors.

As part of Phase 2, groups of up to six people are allowed to make short visits to other households, but with restrictions in place.

Adhering to the public health guidelines will be essential.

Medical experts say while it will be an emotional moment for many who are seeing family members or friends in person for the first time in months, close contact greetings are not advised.

Professor Sam McConkey, from the Department of International Health and Tropical Medicine at the RCSI, said: "We really don't want touch-related greetings and we don't want intimate greetings where people are getting very close."

He said there should be "no kissing, no hugging and no shaking hands".

During home visits, rooms should be well-ventilated, along with maintaining a two-metre social distance.

People are also being asked to continue to adhere to coughing and sneezing etiquette and to regularly wash hands, as part of the efforts to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Visits will also be allowed to the homes of people who have been cocooning - those aged over 70 and people who are medically vulnerable.

It is recommended that face coverings are used as an additional precaution, along with the other public health advice.

Prof McConkey said "if people want to eat and drink together, that's fine".

However, he said it's "not quite time for using the same spoons and knives and forks and cups at this stage".

"But I think eating together, drinking tea together and sitting together talking is great. This is a move forward," he added.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said while groups of up to six people will be allowed visit households, they are meant to be short visits of less than an hour.

"Outdoor meetings are preferable to indoor meetings. If you are meeting indoors, keep it to an hour or less," he said.

He advised that people keep a list of who they contacted every day.

When people leave, Prof McConkey said it is sufficient to wash cutlery and cups or glasses in a dishwasher or with washing-up liquid.

The National Public Health Emergency Team said the social visits should only be for a short period of time.

And after people leave, it is recommended that surfaces, such as kitchen counters or tables, are cleaned down, in line with the public health guidelines to clean surfaces regularly.

But anyone who is displaying symptoms of Covid-19 is advised not to undertake social visits, and to contact their GP instead for a test for the virus.