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lifting lockdown Government plan to lift 5km exercise limit and reopen construction next month

The Government plans to try to instil a little hope amid a growing sense that people are struggling to cope with the current Level 5 restrictions.

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Lockdown: A quiet Grafton Street during pandemic restrictions in Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Lockdown: A quiet Grafton Street during pandemic restrictions in Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Lockdown: A quiet Grafton Street during pandemic restrictions in Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

THE country will get a first taste of freedom since Christmas from April 5, despite stalled progress in the battle against Covid-19.

The Government plans to try to instil a little hope amid a growing sense that people are struggling to cope with the current Level 5 restrictions.

It is expected the 5km exercise limit will be lifted, with ministers set to debate whether to extend it to 10km, 20km or within counties.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) is also working on new guidelines for the so-called 'cocooners' who have been advised to stay at home for most of the past year.

It is understood new guidance will allow fully vaccinated over-70s, who are two weeks on from their second dose, to avail of the freedoms given to the wider population.

A phased reopening of construction sites is also on the table for next month, with an initial focus expected to be on the building of public and private homes. Work on office buildings would then be reviewed two weeks later.

The resumption of some outdoor activities such as non-contact sports for children, as well as golf and tennis for all ages, will also be under consideration by ministers.

The changes on April 5 will be very limited and it will be mid-May before they are loosened again.

Tensions are anticipated within Nphet and it is expected to urge caution as virus cases remain high, at around 500 a day, amid fears of another surge. Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn said last night he is exhausted from giving the same message, warning tough restrictions are needed for six to eight weeks and cautioning about a possible fourth wave.

GP Dr Denis McCauley said last night people need to remind themselves that even with the best vaccine, there is a one in 20 chance of getting the virus.

However, due to the protection of being fully vaccinated, people might imagine they "are not 70 but 55".

Dr McCauley said there are a lot of people who have been terrified to go out but if they are fully vaccinated it will allow them latitude - although it is essential to follow public health guidelines.

This weekend around 16,000 over-70s will have been fully vaccinated and around 250,000 should have had a first dose by the end of next week.

It comes as another 10 deaths were reported, the youngest of whom was 45 and the eldest 88 years old.

A further 507 new cases were diagnosed, highlighting how the spread of the disease has plateaued at a high level and triggering fears about reopening and the impact of another potential surge.

There was a significant rise in new hospitalisations - rising to 43 from an average of 20 to 25 in the previous 24 hours.

There are now 336 patients with Covid-19 in hospital, including 87 in intensive care.

Commenting on his statement on Thursday that strict restrictions would be in place until some time in June, Dr Glynn said people were understandably unhappy with the clip of his response which he said "was amplified".

He said the reality is the vast majority of people in the country "continue to do the right thing".

"It is really difficult for them but I think most people realise that we are hopefully on a path out of this pandemic," he said.

"Most people realise that vaccine supply is going to increase very substantially in a few short weeks. Most people realise that their families will be getting vaccinated in a few short weeks.

"We are exhausted from listening to ourselves talking about it so I cannot imagine how disgruntled the population are at listening to us.

"But I will say to people it will get gradually easier over the coming short months if we can stop a fourth wave."


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