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virus fears Further Covid-19 restrictions cannot be ruled out, Varadkar says

The Tánaiste said if even 800 cases a day are seen by the end of the month, he doesn’t see how restrictions could be eased

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Tanaiste Leo Varadkar during a press briefing at Government Buildings. Photo by: Julien Behal Photography/PA Wire

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar during a press briefing at Government Buildings. Photo by: Julien Behal Photography/PA Wire

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar during a press briefing at Government Buildings. Photo by: Julien Behal Photography/PA Wire

Tánasite Leo Varadkar said that restrictions should stay in place “more or less” as they are now until the most vulnerable are vaccinated.

Current Level 5 restrictions are currently set to be in place until January 31, however, the Fine Gael leader said if the country is even at 800 cases a day by the end of the month, he doesn’t see how they could eased.

Yesterday, the record of a daily 3,394 cases were confirmed in the Republic of Ireland.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1’s This Week, the Tánaiste said: “I think there is a strong case now to say to the Irish people that we should leave restrictions in place more or less as they are now until such a time that we have those most at risk vaccinated, even if that means going well into February.

"And, I think the public would understand that the vaccine does change the picture, we have the opportunity now to suppress the virus and get numbers down really low and use that time to vaccinate those who are most at risk, and then we can consider the situation at that point.”

He added: “If we are still at 800 cases a day on average a day, or on a five day or seven day average of that, at the end of January I don’t see how restrictions could be eased.

"We would need to get figures down much lower than that.”

When asked if additional restrictions will be put in place if cases don’t significantly lower, like closing building sites and implementing curfews, Mr Vardkar said it’s “not possible to rule out” but the current restrictions need to be given time to see if they are working.

He added: "The Level 5 restrictions started on the December 24th but really only clicked in fully on the 30th, and you have to leave it at least 10 to 14 days to know whether it's making a difference or not.”

Speaking today on Newstalk's On the Record with Gavan Reilly, Minister Eamon Ryan told Séan Defoe that the 5km exercise limit could be reduced to 2km if current restrictions don’t ease this Covid-19 surge.

He said that if cases still aren’t lowering in a week or two this measure could be implemented across the country.

As Covid-19 cases surge, Mr Varadkar said that in his understanding private hospitals will be available if public ones become overwhelmed.

"My understanding is that if private hospitals ICU capacity is needed that it will be made available,” he said.

“It was available and we had a formal agreement to do that in the first wave. We don’t need it yet but if it is required at some point during the third wave it could be made available.”

On schools, the Tánaiste said that it is still the governments “firm intention” to reopen them from Monday week.

Yesterday, the Labour Party announced that it is calling on the government to ask Nphet to carry out a public health risk assessment on the reopening of schools from January 11.

The party said its preference is for schools to reopen, however, only if it is safe to do so.

TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who is Labour’s spokesperson for education, said the decision from the government to delay the reopening of schools until January 11 is welcome, but that there needs to be a proper assessment of the public health risk to staff, students and the wider community.


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