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Announcing a complete lockdown in Ireland is under active consideration; Leaders will meet today

DUBLIN: A complete lockdown may come into effect in Ireland. The Taoiseach said the government is actively considering NPHET’s recommendation to impose fifth level restrictions for six weeks.

NPHET had recommended switching to Level 5 two weeks ago. But it was rejected by the government then. The recommendation is being reconsidered following the conviction that otherwise COVID could not be controlled.

The government takes this issue seriously in the context of the Chief Medical Officer, Tony Holohan’s statement that the control over COVID-19 has been lost.

If the current trend of virus outbreaks continues, there will be 1,800-2,200 COVID cases per day in the coming days and about 400 people will be hospitalised, according to Professor Philip Nolan, the chair of NPHET’s Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group.

Taoiseach Michael Martin, Tánaiste Minister Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan are meeting today to discuss the issue. The Taoiseach explained that at that stage the country was not ready to go to the fifth level. Prior to such a move, preparations were needed to support businesses. That is why the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) was announced in the budget. He said more work is ongoing to assess the impact of a nationwide move to Level 4 or 5.

The COVID situation in the country is very severe. Hence we will need further action in relation to this. “People have to be given clear clarity around it and that’s why we are going to meet tomorrow in the first instance.”

Meetings on this were also held yesterday. Mr. Martin’s Department Secretary General and staff visited the CMO to learn more about NPHET’s advice and modeling. The primary objective of NPHET is to protect the vulnerable and the elderly from the corona virus and to ensure that children can go to school. The Taoiseach said that he agrees with it.

“I don’t have the timeline on it but the government will have to meet and in advance of government meeting we have to have the situation well documented and well prepared.”

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the second lockdown would be more difficult than the previous one. He added that the public would like an exit strategy if it is implemented. However, Varadkar said he was considering moving to level 4 or 5 nationally.

Level-4 restrictions have been imposed in the border counties Donagel, Cavan and Monaghan since yesterday following the significant increase in virus cases.  

Sinn Féin and Labour with support

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the country is now in a very dangerous and serious situation. An urgent meeting should be convened to discuss this matter. If necessary, school closures should also be considered. McDonald called on the government to restore pandemic unemployment payment and wage subsidy schemes, mortgage breaks and protections for renters in their original form.

Labour leader Alan Kelly has said they will support the imposition of Level 4 restrictions in the country for three weeks. If necessary, it can be considered for another three weeks. The party also demanded the use of masks, introduce rapid testing, put pressure on employers to bring in working from home, and implement a plan for older people in relation to social bubbles.

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