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Ireland on course to fully re-open by mid-July, says Taoiseach

‘We do not need to return to a national lockdown again,’ Leo Varadkar told the Dáil today.

Image: Oireachtas.ie

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said Ireland is on course to fully re-open by mid-July.

Speaking in the Dail today, the Taoiseach said reopening the country is a “fine balancing act”.

However, he said the latest Covid-19 figures show that the government’s plan is working.

“The government is now conducting extensive work with the help of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) on revising phase three and phase four of the road map so we can have the country almost fully opened by mid-July, instead of the middle of August,” he said

“However, some public health advice and bans of mass gatherings need to continue for some time.

“These are still the early stages so it’s too soon evaluate how Phase 2 is going but the early indications are favourable,” he said.

Varadkar added:

“The easing of restrictions on our economy and people has not enabled the virus to make a comeback.

“But, the last couple of days have been quite encouraging, notwithstanding the new notified deaths announced daily by the Department of Health.

“We’re continuing to scale and stockpile supplies and PPE in case there is a second wave, and we will improve testing.”

He said the government’s strategy “is not one of mitigation, it is suppression”, stating that any resurgences may be dealt with locally rather than another full lockdown.

David Nabarro, the World Health Organisation’s Special Envoy on Covid-19, told the Special Dáil Committee today that there will be local areas where perhaps clusters will emerge, where for a short period of time, movement restrictions will have to be imposed. 

“Ireland’s goal is still trying to get the reproductive number to zero if possible by keeping the R number well below one,” said the Taoiseach.

“Unfortunately no strategy utterly insulates us from the risk of the virus re-emerging in our society.

“We share an open border with Northern Ireland which has unrestricted travel with Great Britain. 

“Closing ourselves off from the rest of the world is not an option for Ireland in the medium to long term so we need to be prepared for the risk of imported cases as we re-open slowly to other countries.

“We need a testing and tracing system capable of identifying new cases, clusters and a resurgence of the virus quickly and so we can contain it and so we do not need to return to a national lockdown again. I am confident we can do that,” he said.

He said when the government makes decisions, whether on restrictions or reopening our country, “we have at all times followed the fundamental principle of protecting lives and not doing harm”. 

“We know there are many types of harm. It is lost lives and it can also be lost livelihoods.  It is the damage to our children’s education, the impact of a prolonged period of isolation on our mental health, or the harm caused by delaying treatment for non-Covid related illness or diseases, also known as secondary deaths.”

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The Taoiseach also commended businesses that have re-opened safely.

Between the 18 May and the 5 June over 1,200 inspections were carried out by the Health and Safety Authority.

“An initial analysis of the specific Covid-19 inspections shows that employers are generally taking a responsible and proactive approach. Approximately three quarters of employers had a Response Plan in place. 

“Eight in 10 had completed employee induction training. Nine in 10 had Covid-19 control measures in place. The HSA checklists and templates to drive implementation of the Protocol have now been downloaded over 30,000 times,” he said.

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