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Corona be slow Slow easing of Covid-19 restrictions expected amid 'grim' fourth wave warnings from Nphet

Nphet warned that any major lifting of restrictions in the coming weeks may result in another significant wave of Covid-19 cases which could last until mid-summer.


Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

Government plans to reopen the country are set to proceed at a much slower pace than expected over concerns about the continued high number of daily Covid-19 cases.

The Cabinet Committee on Covid-19 were given dire warnings last night from Nphet and the HSE about the transmission of the virus and the impact it will have on the health service.

Nphet warned that any major lifting of restrictions in the coming weeks may result in another significant wave of Covid-19 cases which could last until mid-summer.

With the rate of daily cases remaining stubbornly high, it urged against easing of restrictions over the next four to eight weeks as it could jeopardise progress made in controlling the virus.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn gave a presentation to a Cabinet Committee on Covid-19, which sources at the meeting described as “grim”.

One source said Nphet want to hold off easing restrictions significantly for another four to eight weeks to reduce the risk of another wave of the virus.

Another source at the meeting said Nphet urged ministers to “hold firm”. The source conceded there would only be a gradual easing of “very few restrictions” next month. “I think we didn’t lower expectations enough,” the source said.

Nphet warned that if the health service loses control of the virus now it could result in a wave of new cases which could last into the summer.

This would put at risk plans to allow the hospitality industry open during the summer months.

It would also mean there would be no economic boost for the tourism industry as staycations would not be permitted if Covid-19 transmission remains high.

The UK variant is still a serious concern for Nphet, the HSE and the Government.

The Cabinet Committee is considering easing the 5km travel ban, allowing more outdoor activities including sport and permitting construction workers return to sites.

It was anticipated restrictions on travel, sport, outdoor gatherings and construction would be eased on April 5.

However, it now looks like any lifting of Covid-19 regulations will be done a on a phased basis throughout April.

This is likely to mean construction work will not fully return next week but rather it will be done gradually over the coming month.

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien is seeking to have residential development return next week followed by commercial construction later in the month.

A senior Government source said they expect restrictions to be eased gradually over the coming weeks so their impact on transmission of the virus can be assessed.

At the meeting in Government Buildings, ministers were given presentations from Nphet, the HSE and the Vaccine Taskforce.

Sources at the meeting said Nphet only wanted a minor easing of restrictions next month. The Path Ahead plan for easing restrictions committed to reviewing the 5km travel ban before April while also examining whether some outdoor activities, including sport could be permitted.

It is expected the 5km travel ban will be lifted but it has yet to be decided how far it can be extended. However, senior Government sources have ruled out allowing inter-country travel.

Cabinet ministers are confident children will be able to take part in non-contact sports training in pods of 15 next month.

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Irish Independent

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