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covid latest Government drafts new plan for exiting lockdown to be published this month

The move follows weeks of calls from the public and businesses for clarity on when the Government planned to ease Covid-19 restrictions.

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All quiet: A normally bustling Grafton Street in Dublin city centre was eerily void of people yesterday, and there is no sign it is going to change soon. Photo: Gareth Chaney/ Collins

All quiet: A normally bustling Grafton Street in Dublin city centre was eerily void of people yesterday, and there is no sign it is going to change soon. Photo: Gareth Chaney/ Collins

All quiet: A normally bustling Grafton Street in Dublin city centre was eerily void of people yesterday, and there is no sign it is going to change soon. Photo: Gareth Chaney/ Collins

The Government has conceded its plan for living with Covid-19 is not working and it is drafting a new framework for exiting the third national lockdown.

Just weeks after Taoiseach Micheál Martin insisted the Government was sticking to the original plan it has emerged the framework is now being overhauled to provide for a slower reopening of the country.

Yesterday, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar admitted the Government was redrafting the existing plan to take into account the national vaccination roll-out and the emergence of new variants.

The move follows weeks of calls from the public and businesses for clarity on when the Government planned to ease Covid-19 restrictions.

Since Christmas, the Government has refused to give any clarity on when childcare, schools and colleges will reopen.

Retailers, restaurant owners and publicans have also been left in the dark for more than a month.

The revised framework will involve a much slower reopening of society. It will begin with schools reopening, followed by construction and over time other sectors will be permitted to reopen.

The details of the new plan will be worked on over the next two weeks before being published on February 22.

The announcement came just hours after Labour leader Alan Kelly called on the Taoiseach to outline a strategy for dealing with the pandemic as he said the Plan for Living with Covid-19 has become “irrelevant”.

“Living with Covid has failed. So we don’t have a strategy,” said Mr Kelly.

“I don’t expect him to stand up and say living with Covid is still our strategy because it has never worked. It’s not working now. So I want to know what is the strategy.”

In recent weeks, the Taoiseach, along with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe have robustly defended the Plan for Living with Covid-19, which was published last September.

Since the plan was published the Government has imposed two national lockdowns.

During an interview on RTÉ Radio One, the Tánaiste said when the Government developed its plan last summer it did not take into consideration the introduction of vaccines and did not know about the possibility of new variants of the virus.

“There’s been a degree of experience over the past couple of months in terms of what reopenings can cause problems and which ones don’t,” he added.

The Tánaiste said it was now “appropriate” that the Government “refreshed” the existing Plan for Living with Covid-19. He said the new plan will also take into account issues such as extending the Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the wage subsidy scheme.

Mr Varadkar said he did not expect construction to open before March 5.

He said personal services such as hairdressers and barbers were not expected to open until after March 5.

The current lockdown has been in place since just after Christmas.


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