It’s more of the same for the coming weeks.
An Taoiseach Micheál Martin has finally revealed details of the Government’s revised ‘Living With Covid-19′ plan and the latest version confirms there will be very few changes when the current period of lockdown comes to an end on March 5th, 2021.
In fact, severe restrictions will continue until April 5th at the earliest, when they will be reviewed and reduced or extended, depending on the situation in six weeks’ time.
The Taoiseach said that while we are all “fed up” with the restrictions, more must be done to contain the virus and “steadily and surely” drive down infection as the vaccination rollout continues.
“We will get through this… but I want to make sure that when we open something it stays open.” he said.
“We will continue to proceed carefully and cautiously.”
Here are the main points from the Taoiseach’s address:
- TRAVEL LIMIT: Despite calls to loosen the ban on travel, the 5km travel limit will remain in place until April 5th at the earliest.
- STAY AT HOME: The public is advised to continue to work from home and stay at home apart from essential shopping trips and daily exercise within 5km.
- SCHOOLS: Schools will reopen for 320,000 junior and senior infants, first and second class and Leaving Certificate students on a phased basis, beginning on Monday, March 1st. More primary school classes and fifth-year secondary classes are expected to return to classrooms on March 15th, with the remaining year groups joining them after the Easter break, by Monday, April 12th.
- CHILDCARE: The State’s Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) preschool scheme will resume on March 8th. All other childcare will reopen on March 29th.
- WELFARE: The Pandemic Unemployment Payment is likely to be extended until the end of June.
- FUNERALS & WEDDINGS: Funeral attendance remains limited to ten mourners. Weddings can involve no more than six guests.
- SALONS AND BARBERS: The earliest you can expect to book a haircut or other services is May, but nothing has been confirmed.
- RETAIL: The Government is unlikely to reopen non-essential retail before May.
- PUBS: While UK residents will be happily enjoying pints in the country’s beer gardens by April, it looks like Ireland’s pubs will remain closed until “mid-summer”.
Apart from these, very few dates have been offered as a guideline for Ireland’s exit from lockdown, amid concerns that, with patience wearing thin, set dates might lead to a drop in compliance.
‘Vaccination will be our most powerful tool against Covid-19’
With 45 deaths and 575 confirmed new cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours (23 in Cork), Irish hospitals are currently caring for 693 coronavirus patients, of which 150 are in ICU. There have been 37 additional hospitalisations in the past 24 hours.
With supplies limited, 130,423 people have now received their second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. A further 100,000 will be administered this week and the HSE expects that numbers will ramp up to 250,000 per week by April.
In the meantime, experts are urging the public to avoid complacency when it comes to basics such as social distancing and handwashing.
“We continue to see really high levels of compliance amongst the population and this is having a positive impact on the levels of disease in our communities,” said Dr Ronan Glynn, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health.
“It is also having a positive impact on our hospitals – while last week there were 269 cases in healthcare workers and 4 outbreaks in our hospitals these represent a very significant reduction compared with the 839 cases and 15 outbreaks in the week to the 7th of February.”
“In time, vaccination will be our most powerful tool against COVID-19 and over the coming weeks those who are highest risk in our families and communities will get vaccinated.
“For now, each of us has a range of tried and trusted tools at our disposal – by keeping our distance, washing our hands, wearing face masks and staying at home we will continue to drive down transmission of this disease. Our collective efforts move us closer to the continued reopening of our schools and the resumption of non-Covid healthcare services.”