TOUGH Covid-19 restrictions will be in place for six months, the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, has said.
Mr Martin said that a ‘cautious and conservative approach’ would be taking to reopening Ireland from lockdown.
This, he stressed, did not necessarily mean six months of lockdown as he noted: “By the summer we will be in a changed environment because of the large-scale vaccination that will have been achieved by then.”
This week, the Level 5 restrictions will be extended until the end of February by the Cabinet.
To even relax restrictions, Mr Martin said that Covid-19 cases would need to be ‘well down’.
New variants of the coronavirus have heightened concerns among health officials and government chiefs with the country’s hospitals already under severe strain.
The Taoiseach said: “It transmits more easily. If we have mass mobilisation, and mass socialisation, it will spread again. I think with the vaccines coming, there’s a need to be cautious and conservative for the first half of this year until we roll out the vaccines.
“We will be witnessing far more prolonged restrictions than we have to date. I’m the Taoiseach, but I have to consult with my colleagues and Ministers, and we’ll consult with the opposition as well, but that is my sense of it until we get control.”
Schools will not be fully reopened before St Patrick’s Day, the Taoiseach indicated.
“The case numbers will have to be somewhere similar to where we were in October or November,” he said.
“The full million won’t be back (before St Patrick’s day). We can phase things and look at things differently.
“We need to think about this. We need to be innovative and obviously parallel with the way the virus is changing we need to adapt our approaches in terms of the mass movement of young people and students.
“I am passionate about education but with a million people involved we are going to have to look at it differently.”
Martin said that a decision will be made on how special education can safely be reopened.
Passengers arriving into Ireland may now be held in quarantine hotels for a minimum of five days if they do not touch down with a negative Covid-19 test.
The Irish Government would, he added, support a ban on all travel into the EU if it was introduced by Brussels.
Referencing a video call among EU leaders late in the week, Martin said: “It’s a race between the vaccination on the one hand and the new variant on the other which could wreak havoc with all of our best laid plans and maybe new variants of the UK variant on top of the South Africa.”Tags: