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stop the surge Lockdown restrictions 'could be in place for another few months,' says Varadkar

He warned that with fresh restrictions only introduced in recent days, and with the ban on household visits not due to start until Friday, it was probable that case numbers would not reduce until the middle of next month.

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Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has said lockdown restrictions could be in place for another "few months" in a bid to halt the surge in cases.

Mr Vardkar suggested that restrictions need to be sustainable instead of lifting and re-introducing restrictions as cases rise and fall.

"There will be a case of saying to the Irish people, you know, perhaps we should keep these restrictions in place until such a time as we have protected our healthcare workers and our most vulnerable,” he said on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland.

"But again, that speaks to a separate issue that if restrictions are going to be in place for a prolonged period, not a few weeks but maybe a few months, they need to be ones that are sustainable.”

As the Cabinet prepares to meet today to discuss Brexit as well as the current Covid-19 situation, Mr Varadkar said it will take another 10 days or more before it is revealed whether lockdown restrictions are working.

"We know that Level Three max did bring the R rate under one and brought the cases down and Level Five last time did as well,” Mr Varadkar told Morning Ireland.

"One of the concerns we have is the new variant which is part of the mix now which might change things.

"But we won't know for sure really until the first week or the second week of January because when restrictions come in there is a good 10-14 days before they begin to be reflected.

"What the CMO said yesterday is absolutely correct, a very small number of people attended for tests around Christmas Day and St Stephen's and that has shown an artificially low number yesterday."

He warned that with fresh restrictions only introduced in recent days, and with the ban on household visits not due to start until Friday, it was probable that case numbers would not reduce until the middle of next month.

"We would expect to see, no matter what is done, to keep rising until the first week of January."

He suggested that “sustainable” restrictions could be in place for a number of months, rather than lifting and re-introducing new restrictions every few weeks as cases rose and fell.

“There will be a case of saying to the Irish people, you know, perhaps we should keep these restrictions in place until such a time as we have protected our healthcare workers and our most vulnerable,” he said.

“But again, that speaks to a separate issue that if restrictions are going to be in place for a prolonged period, not a few weeks but maybe a few months, they need to be ones that are sustainable.”

He said that the target for lifting restrictions would be falling case numbers and an R number below one, as well as hospitals not being under pressure.

Mr Varadkar added that the government would not reconsider the re-opening of schools next week unless it was given specific advice by the National Public Health Emergency Team to do so.


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