High level Covid restrictions to remain until at least April 5: Taoiseach

James Ward and Rebecca Black
·3-min read

The highest level of coronavirus restrictions will continue in Ireland until April 5 at least, the Taoiseach has confirmed.

Micheal Martin made the announcement in a live address to the nation from Government buildings, outlining the revised Living With Covid plan.

It was signed off by the Cabinet earlier.

Level Five measures are to remain in place until after Easter.

The plan includes the phased reopening of schools and childcare, with some pupils set to return to the classroom on March 1.

Junior and senior infants, as well as first and second class in primary schools, will be among the first back to school.

Leaving Certificate students are also to return to the classroom next week.

The reopening of childcare starts from March 8 as well as the resumption of some non-Covid related health services.

The Taoiseach said the situation will be reviewed on April 5.

Watch: How England will leave lockdown

Mr Martin said Ireland is “driving down the levels of infection”, but said the emergence of the UK variant had made the situation very different to what it was several months ago.

The B117 variant now accounts for 90% of new infections in Ireland.

“The truth is that it has changed the dynamic significantly and we need to be very careful as we take the next steps forward,” he said.

Depending on the state of the pandemic at the April 5 review date, there is potential for relaxations around outdoor gatherings, some sporting activities, the gradual reopening of construction and the 5k limit on non-essential journeys.

Mr Martin said it is “critically important” that people do not let their guard down.

“When we open things, we want them to stay open, that is why I cannot overemphasise the importance of continued observance of Level 5 restrictions,” he said.

All those working from home must continue to do so.

“We want to reopen society as soon and as safely as possible, so if we can maintain downward pressure on the disease and keep our numbers low, we will then move into the next phase,” he said.

Turning to the vaccination programme, the Taoiseach said more than 350,000 doses have been administered and a “major ramping up” will commence.

This will include small local GP surgeries and pharmacists, and community and regional vaccination centres.

“We are implementing a programme of vaccination on a scale that is unprecedented in the country’s history,” Mr Martin said.

“By the end of March, we will have administered 1.25 million doses, then depending on vaccines arriving as scheduled, we would administer on average more than one million doses per month during April, May and June.”

He said they aim to have administered first doses to 40% of people over the age of 18 by the end of April, 64% by the end of May and up to 82% of adults by the end of June.

A further 45 deaths of patients who tested positive for coronavirus in Ireland were announced on Tuesday, along with a further 575 confirmed cases of the virus.

Watch: How will easing lockdown affect COVID deaths?