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Donnelly outlines colour-coding system to replace phases as Harris says Covid could be with us 'a very long time'

The health minister said the phases were about providing a timescale, but this system would tell us where we’re at “on any given day”.

Health minister Stephen Donnelly
Health minister Stephen Donnelly
Image: Leon Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

Updated Aug 12th 2020, 12:35 PM

THE GOVERNMENT INTENDS to move away from the phases of re-opening the country, and switch to a colour-coded system to indicate how counties, regions and the country as a whole are currently affected by Covid-19.

The National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has been formulating the plan that is set to be implemented in the near future, with Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly saying this morning it’ll allow us to “see how we’re doing” and allowing authorities to “plan ahead a bit more”. 

He also said that it was “entirely possible” for further localised restrictions to be implemented in the coming weeks and months, such as those brought in for Kildare, Laois and Offaly following a surge in cases in these counties. 

Separately today, Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris said the system would be built on the government being honest and transparent with the Irish people as it was clear Covid-19 could be with us “for a very long time”. 

First reported in this morning’s Irish Times, the system would have four colours or statuses – yellow, orange, red and blue. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Donnelly said that yellow would be “where we’re at now in most of the country”. 

He said that orange would be similar to the restrictions just implemented in Kildare, Laois and Offaly while a red status would be the kind of large-scale lockdown we saw across the country earlier this year. 

“The phases were about providing a timescale [to re-opening],” Donnelly said. “This’d be a colour-coded system of where we’re at on any given day.”

The colours could change by region or county, or apply to the whole country. 

The blue status would indicate we’ve reached a stage where a vaccine or effective treatment for Covid-19 was available. 

As a safe and efficacious vaccine is not expected to be widely available anytime soon, the Health Minister said that it’s “entirely possible” for further localised restrictions being brought in to deal with a rise in cases in the future. 

Donnelly said that it was essential that government and public health officials acted as quickly as they did in Kildare, Laois and Offaly to prevent community transmission developing there and spreading out to the rest of country. 

He added that with the envisaged colour-coding system, it would enable action to be taken as quickly as possible on a local level to stem the spread of the virus. 

The minister also stressed the importance of people knowing they’d receive income supports if they had to take time off due to having Covid-19. He said if anyone feels symptoms, they should ring their GP and arrange a test. 

Speaking to reporters this morning, Minister Simon Harris said it would be important going forward to demonstrate to the public “what success looks like” with this virus.

He said it is inevitable that we’ll see more cases but that a new national plan such as this gives the opportunity for an “honest conversation” and for the government to level with the Irish people on the impact the virus is having.

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Harris added that the colour-system would give good indications of how the country and particular parts of it were doing with the virus, and stressed the need to ramp up testing in the coming weeks as efforts continue to stem the spread of the virus. 

About the author:

Sean Murray

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