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Locking forward Six more weeks of lockdown likely as Nphet meet to finalise latest advice to Government

Government sources have said that only “minimal changes” will be announced tomorrow.


Simon Coveney

Simon Coveney

Simon Coveney

There are fears that stubbornly high new Covid-19 cases will mean the public will have to wait at least a further six weeks before any significant easing of restrictions is likely.

Experts from the emergency medical advisory committee, Nphet, meet today to finalise their latest advice to Government which they will then relay to the Cabinet Covid-19 subcommittee meeting this evening. Those ministers will bring the outcome of the two meetings to the full Cabinet tomorrow for final decision.

It comes as there was no sign of an improvement in the number of new cases of the virus with 604 reported yesterday. A further 13 deaths were also confirmed.

Two well-placed government sources have said that only “minimal changes” will be announced tomorrow, to take effect as promised a week later on April 5.

Officials pointed out that for the past three weeks, the new case figures of the virus remain stubbornly high.

"It is the Government’s job to factor in other issues beside the medicine and the science. But on this occasion there is a strong sense that Nphet's advice will hold sway,” one government source told the Irish Independent.

"The bigger hope will be change in May depending on the vaccine roll-out happening as planned. But it seems likely that major changes will be in the latter part of May,” another source said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said the Government has only "very narrow" scope to ease coronavirus restrictions and told RTÉ radio that ministers will be taking a "cautious" approach.

"What we are trying to ensure is that we don't allow a fourth wave of Covid spread to happen between now and when the majority of adults in the country will be vaccinated," he said.

"I would expect, but I can't be sure, that we would be looking at the 5km restriction, that we'd be looking at outdoor activity, that we will certainly want to facilitate completing the full return to school for children after April 5.”

One minister said that both the medical experts on Nphet and the Government are "very aware that people are lockdown weary”.

The main focus of hope will be upon what easing of restrictions is possible in May.

"But they way things are we are looking at the middle to the latter end of May,” another source said.

There is speculation that outdoor dining at food-serving pubs and restaurants may be allowed by mid-May, along with the reopening of non-essential shops and countrywide travel.

Mr Coveney said he believed that by mid-July the majority of people will be vaccinated and this could lead to a much more positive picture.

A spokesman for the Taoiseach was non-committal about reports the UK may be ready to share vaccines with Ireland in efforts to ensure the easing of restrictions in Northern Ireland are not obstructed.

An Irish government spokesperson said: “The UK has previously indicated that once it has achieved a high level of vaccination of its own population, it would consider sharing vaccines with other countries. We are not aware of any specific plans to share vaccines with Ireland at this stage.”

Mr Coveney said while the UK had soared ahead in administering first jabs, the proportion of second jabs administered there was not dramatically higher than in Ireland. He said on that basis it was less likely Ireland will get early supplies from the UK.

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