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Dublin: 11 °C Tuesday 11 August, 2020

Cabinet told there are no indications that virus levels are low enough to ease restrictions on 5 May

The plan to lift restrictions will be discussed by Cabinet on Friday.

Image: PA

CABINET HAS BEEN told today that there are no indications that virus levels are low enough to ease restrictions on 5 May. 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris briefed Cabinet on the national response to Covid-19 this morning. 

Ministers were told that the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) will consider the current restrictions on Friday, in advance of a Cabinet meeting later on Friday.

Cabinet also received updates regarding the progression of Covid-19 in Ireland, the current position on testing and contact tracing, and the latest on the situation in long-term care facilities.

It is understood the ministers had an opportunity to speak about the restrictions, with sources stating there were mixed views on the matter, with some specifying that slight changes might be warranted. 

Over the weekend, Harris indicated there may be some “slight easing” of “one or two” of the restrictions on 5 May.

A roadmap to how the restrictions will be lifted will also be published before 5 May and will set out, in phases, how Ireland will reopen. 

The plan is due to be discussed at Cabinet on Friday. 

It is understood there could be as many as four stages, with two to three weeks between each phase.

In recent days, there has been much speculation about what industries will reopen first when schools will reopen and if older people will be able to leave their homes.

Harris warned recently that there won’t be a “big bang moment” where the restrictions are lifted, instead stating that it is harder to re-open the country than to shut it down.

While NPHET is meeting on Friday, sources state it may not give recommendations regarding the restrictions until closer to 5 May deadline.

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During today’s Cabinet meeting, it is understood that a number of ministers called for the easing of some restrictions. Ministers including Michael Ring, Paschal Donohoe, Eoghan Murphy and Finian McGrath are understood to have said the people need some hope in relation to the restrictions. 

Some ministers insisted that businesses need some indication as to when they will soon be able to reopen. While health issues need to be considered it is believed the majority said the economic side of the emergency also needed to be addressed.

A number of suggestions were made to the Taoiseach including allowing the over-70s outside for a period of time each day, an extension to the 2km limit, as well as the opening of construction sites in order to boost the economy.

Ministers suggested a plan on the exit strategy needed to be in place by Friday. Health Minister Simon Harris and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan are understood to have aired on the side of caution, stating that public health advice should be priority.

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