LONDON (AP) – Life became a bit more normal in Ireland on Monday when pints were pulled and locked up hair cut for the first time since mid-March.
And for the first time since March 13, the Blarney Stone was kissed – a hugely important moment for anyone seeking the gift of the divide.
As the country embarked on the next phase of the government’s easing of coronavirus restrictions, food-serving bars were able to welcome customers back – pubs that don’t sell food could reopen on July 20. Hairdressers, gyms, swimming pools and cinemas were also allowed to open, while small congregations can attend church services again.
Mass gatherings, including weddings, of 50 people indoors and 200 people outdoors are now also allowed, while face covers have become mandatory on public transport.
The Licensed Vintners Association said the pub reopening was a “milestone moment in the country’s recovery.”
Customers must reserve a table in advance and waiting at the bar is no longer allowed, and all custom is now performed by table service.
“With the public health situation improving, the reopening of pubs will be an indicator of Ireland’s exit from the lockdown,” said LVA director Donall O’Keeffe.
In Mary Mac’s, a pub in south Dublin, ordinary Angus Fleming enjoyed his first pint of Guinness with his local.
“It’s great, I’ve been looking forward to it for a few months,” he said. “It makes life a little more realistic.”
Ireland was one of the first European countries to apply strict lockdown provisions after the pandemic hit Italy. By mid-March, it had banned mass gatherings, strictly limited social interactions, and closed schools, universities, and nurseries.
The early action is widely credited with limiting deaths in Ireland. The country’s death toll from coronavirus is 1,735 and the total number of confirmed cases is just under 25,500.
The coronavirus besieged almost every aspect of everyday life in Ireland, but perhaps the most symbolic in Ireland was stopping the tradition of kissing the Blarney Stone for the first time in almost 600 years.
On Monday, owner Charles Colthurst was the first person to kiss the famous limestone block, marking the occasion by wearing the Liverpool Football Club jersey, which won its first English league title in 30 years last week.
“There are some very difficult times ahead in the tourism industry, but hopefully this will be the start of our journey in the coming years to try to bring our visitor numbers back to comparable levels before the COVID situation,” said Colthurst .
A range of health and safety measures have been taken, including the use of a detergent that the owner of Blarney Castle says has been approved by the World Health Organization and that it would 99.9% of the viruses, germs, bacteria that may be present kill. the stone.
Other measures include limiting the number of people coming to the site, while the person holding someone kissing the stone is wearing a protective face shield and gloves. The gloves are replaced or cleaned after each person.
Legend has it that one of Colthurst’s 15th-century predecessors had a speech impediment and the castle owner rescued a witch who drowned in the castle grounds. The witch told him that if he kissed the stone, he would receive the gift of eloquence.
A ritual was born, practiced and repeated without obstacles – until the virus surfaced.
Follow the AP virus outbreak coverage at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.