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Removal of Level 5 restrictions in Ireland will be slow – Tanaiste; Virus spread rate started to decline

DUBLIN: Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has said that the Level 5 COVID restrictions will be eased from early March. The Tanaiste also said that the easing of restrictions would be very slow as it was done after the first wave of COVID-19.

“It might start off with some retail, being allowed to meet two people outdoors. It’s going to be a very slow unwinding of restrictions. But if we can get the figures down very low that becomes a possibility,” Mr. Varadkar said.

“If we can get to the better weather, and this is a partially seasonal virus, and if we can get a critical mass of people vaccinated, we can ease restrictions into that Easter and summer period, but it will be very slow,” he said.

“The plan is to suppress the virus to very low levels, and we think that’s possible by early March. And we want to use that time to get people vaccinated as soon as possible.”

“What businesses say to me is that they don’t want stop-start lockdowns, they would prefer to be opened slowly if they knew they would be able to stay open or at least stay open for a decent period, Tanaiste said.

Mr. Varadkar said the government would consider re-opening schools on a phased basis in February, but added that it would depend on the declining number of COVID cases. “The number of cases is coming down… but still nowhere near low enough,” he said.

“Our hospitals are in a very difficult position using surge capacity for ICU and critical care at the moment so the advice to Cabinet tomorrow is that we should extend Level Five lockdown as it is until March,” he said.

The number of COVID-19 patients in Ireland was reported to be less than a thousand yesterday, but the death toll has exceeded 100. The dead included a 19-year-old man.

Mr. Varadkar said the government wanted to reopen special schools, then primary schools and then other schools in February and March, but the matter needed to be discussed with the unions.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin also said that it is possible to go backwards from the strict Level 5 measures by early March, adding that the country would continue to have strict restrictions for another month. Mr. Martin also confirmed that there will be restrictions until March 5th.

The Taoiseach’s remarks came as a confirmation of reports released after a meeting of the COVID-19 Cabinet sub-committee.

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