As Ireland reopens, locals are kissing Blarney Stone again

People in Ireland are tentatively returning to shops, hair salons and restaurants as the country emerges from its coronavirus lockdown — and some are going further still, kissing the famous Blarney Stone in order to regain the “gift of the gab.”

Legend has it that planting one’s lips on the limestone block at Blarney Castle, near the city of Cork, gives people the ability to charm anyone with their eloquence.

But reimagining the tradition for a socially distanced world has taken some skill. The castle finally reopened on Monday after months of lockdown, and its owner Charles Colthurst was the first to kiss the 15th century stone.

“This was the first time in its history that it was not possible to kiss the stone, and the response to this was staggering with messages of support from all over the world,” staff at the castle wrote on Facebook before the reopening.

“We went to great lengths over the last number of months to put a series of health and safety measures in place,” they said, adding that the stone can again “be kissed by any of our visitors if they choose to do so.”

The stone will now be sprayed with disinfectant throughout the day, and punters hoping to kiss it will need to wait until the spray has dried for one minute.

Tourists are required to slide underneath the stone in order to plant their lips on it, and “the person holding people kissing the stone will be wearing a protective face shield and gloves,” the post added.

“We believe this is a significant introduction of measures to help make this 600-year-old tradition as safe as possible,” Colthurst said.

Ireland’s newest phase of reopening began on Monday when many non-essential businesses were allowed to welcome customers, provided they ensure social distancing is implemented.

Cafes, hairdressers and restaurants were all included in the move. The next stage, set to begin on July 20, will see them joined by pubs and bars. Large gatherings, both indoors and outdoors, will also be allowed from that date.

The country has suffered more than 25,000 Covid-19 cases and 1,735 deaths during the pandemic.