The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien TD has welcomed the announcement of the phased reopening of construction set to begin on April 12th.

From April 12th all residential construction projects can recommence and the construction of Early Learning Childcare and School Aged Childcare facilities will be added to the list of essential services for construction activity. This aligns with the current exemption to primary and secondary schools and to allow important fire safety works to progress. A full reopening of construction will be considered from May 4th, subject to public health guidance.

Minister O’Brien said, “I am very glad Government have agreed a phased reopening of the construction sector from April 12th. The impact of a 13 week shutdown on homebuilding will be immense this year and my Department will do all we can to make up for lost ground.

“It’s clear from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) advice that we remain in a precarious situation in terms of the transmission of the virus and the priority is to continue to supress it as much as possible while the vaccination rollout is ramped up substantially.

“The shutdown in construction sector activity from January 8th was a direct response to the need to curtail the movement of people. The industry itself has shown great agility in adapting swiftly to public health measures, putting in place strict health and safety protocols on sites. These measures have proven successful with no evidence the construction sector has been a driver of infections. Now as we begin to reopen it’s more important than ever that the measures adopted by the sector are adhered to rigidly.

“My Department are currently making regulatory arrangements to facilitate new housing projects or new phases of housing projects, where commencement notices were submitted during the shutdown so that they can commence on site as promptly as possible.

“The Residential Tenancies Bill 2021was passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas this week and will be signed into law shortly. This Bill extends for a further 3 months (from 13 April 2021 to 12 July 2021) the application of separate and targeted protections for the most vulnerable tenants who are economically impacted by Covid-19, are in rent arrears and are at risk of losing their tenancies. Significant and enhanced State income supports, including Rent Supplement, are available from the Department of Social Protection to assist tenants to pay their rent.

“Local Authorities are supporting the HSE on the coordination of the 38 mass vaccination centres across the country while also assisting them in establishing pop-up testing centres.  Importantly, the Community Call Fora, run by each of the 31 Local Authorities, will continue in their vital work providing practical supports, such as the collection and delivery of essential food and medicines to those cocooning, as well as support for those experiencing isolation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In terms of other practical supports for businesses, my Department is examining ways in which we can work with Local Authorities to support businesses in adapting new approaches to facilitate economic recovery and increased commercial activity in urban areas, including in relation to supporting outdoor dining at hotels, restaurants, pubs and other establishments as well as allowing restaurants to operate as takeaways for the current year without having to apply for change of use planning permission,” he concluded.