Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has announced the Republic of Ireland will move to phase two of the coronavirus lockdown-easing plan next week.

From Monday, people in the Republic will be able to travel anywhere within their own county or within 20km of their home.

Also all shops will be opened, but with staggered hours.

Leo Varadkar said he will move to phase three on 29 June - all travel restrictions will be lifted and pubs with restaurant licences allowed to open, with table services only.

Phase four beginning on 20 July will then be the final phase, as phase five has been scrapped, the Taoiseach said.

There have been a further seven coronavirus-related deaths in the Republic, bringing the total number to 1,670.

Mr Varadkar said he has discussed the plans for reopening the Irish lockdown with First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill.

  • VIDEO: Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill on talks with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

The Irish chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, said the road map is being accelerated due to the decrease in the transmission of Covid-19.

"Our road map was originally put together in April and at that stage no country was at the point of easing restrictions and no one knew what the effects were," he explained.

"We have that experience now and the disease landed in Ireland a lot later than other European countries and they have been able to ease restrictions at an earlier stage than us.

"We assessed all of this at the National Public Health Emergency Team yesterday and we decided then to bring the next three phases into two phases."

The Taoiseach thanked the public in their efforts to suppress the virus, saying: "We have earned the right to be hopeful about the future again."

He added: "We always said we would accelerate if it was safe to do so. We have reached that point with your help."

Mr Varadkar also said that this has been a "difficult period" for those aged over 70 and with medical issues.

"There is cause for hope, from Monday it will be permissible to welcome a small number of people to their homes," he added.

"We recognise the difficulty the 5km sf having so from Monday people can travel anywhere within their own county or 20km from their own homes.

"We want people to stay local and in their own county, From Monday groups of people of six people can meet with each other and groups of 15 people can meet for outdoor sporting activities.

"Up to 25 people will be allowed to attend funerals of loved ones."

Responding to Friday's announcement, the Belfast Chamber and Hospitality Ulster jointly called for the Executive to "follow the Republic's example".

In a statement, Simon Hamilton and Colin Neill said: “With the Government in the Irish Republic announcing that it is bringing forward its dates for when retail and hospitality can reopen, the Northern Ireland Executive urgently needs to follow suit.

"Our local retail and hospitality sectors have now had their doors shut for nearly three months to help stop the spread of Covid-19 with costs still rising and no income in their tills.

"They are actively planning and preparing to reopen in ways that ensure staff and customer safety. All they now need is a date from the Executive when they are permitted to do so."

  • VIDEO: First Minister Arlene Foster addresses issues including victims' pensions and the Republic lifting lockdown