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Lockdown latest 'On the right track' for 5km travel limit to be lifted on April 5, Varadkar says

Varadkar said Ireland is “absolutely on track” with regard to hospitalisations and ICU admissions and that the cabinet will assess the situation at the end of the month to see what restrictions can be eased.

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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar today said Ireland is “on the right track” for the Government to lift the 5km travel limit on April 5.

But he said the return of schools is a cause for concern with an extra one million people moving daily.

Mr Varadkar today told Galway Bay FM the return of schools is not causing a spike in cases as of yet but the situation will be monitored and a call will be made “on the run-up to April 5”.

He said the priority once all schoolchildren are back in classes will be to relax the 5km travel limit and look at opening some outdoor amenities, while allowing people to meet outside.

Speaking today Mr Varadkar said Ireland is “absolutely on track” with regard to hospitalisations and ICU admissions and that the cabinet will assess the situation at the end of the month to see what restrictions can be eased.

“We are going to go more slowly than maybe we would have if we hadn’t had the experience we did in January,” the Tánaiste said.

Mr Varadkar was not positive on the return of larger gatherings to funerals in the near future as he pointed out an increase in funeral numbers would only happen at Level 3, which he predicted was unlikely to happen next month.

“We would love to [increase numbers at funerals] and it is not the church, but there is very strong evidence that everything else that happens around weddings and funerals is a problem. It’s just the nature of these events,” Mr Vardkar said.

The Tánaiste said the evidence indicates funerals and weddings are akin to hospitality when it came to spreading the virus. He admitted that it “was not what people want to hear”.

Mr Varadkar admitted the pace of the vaccine rollout was frustrating but said while Ireland is behind the likes of the US, the UK and Israel in the percentage of its population, the Tánaiste pointed out we’re “well ahead of France, Germany, the Netherlands and most countries around the world”.

The Tánaiste said 98pc of the deaths from Covid are in people over 60 or are medically vulnerable and said once these people are vaccinated, “we can make a real difference in how Covid affects us by vaccinating a relatively small number of people, and we’re getting on with that,” the Tánaiste said.

“We’re going to be dealing with the virus for a very long time, a lot longer that many of us would’ve anticipated when this all started. But yesterday, Ireland recorded the lowest number of cases in the EU. I know it is only one day, but it’s a dramatic turnaround from where we were in January and February.

While Mr Varakdar said nobody could say for certain that there wouldn’t be another lockdown, he said the vaccine data was “very positive”, with all vaccines showing “close to 100pc effectiveness in preventing severe illness, hospitalisation and death”.

Certain unknowns that could see Ireland enter a lockdown once again are the length of time immunity is granted through vaccination and the ability of the virus to “outwit the vaccines” and become resistant.

Mr Varadkar said problems next winter could not be ruled out as “not only could Covid come back next winter, we could also have the return of other respiratory illnesses.

The Tánaiste confirmed there was not one case of flu confirmed in Ireland this winter.

“That has never happened in my lifetime or recollection, but the flu hasn’t gone away. One of the concerns is that these respiratory illnesses return with a vengeance next winter and we have less immunity”.

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