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Level 5 restrictions to remain in place until at least 5 April, Cabinet sub-committee agrees

The government is expected to publish its updated Living with Covid plan this week.

People out and about in Sandymount, Dublin today.
People out and about in Sandymount, Dublin today.
Image: Rollingnews.ie

Updated Mon 11:01 PM

LEVEL 5 RESTRICTIONS are to remain in place until at least 5 April, at which point they will be reviewed, the Cabinet Covid-19 sub-committee has agreed.

The sub-committee met this evening ahead of the publication of the government’s updated Living with Covid plan this week.

It’s understood that there will be no change to the 5km travel restrictions until at least 5 April.

Economic supports such as the Pandemic Unemployment Payment are expected to be extended to June. 

It’s also understood that the updated Living with Covid plan will not include indicative dates like the UK’s plan published today, but will focus heavily on vaccine rollout. 

A recommendation for a phased reopening of schools in the coming weeks has been given the green light by the sub-committee, ahead of a final decision being made by Cabinet tomorrow.

In relation to childcare, it’s understood that the sub-committee has recommended that the state’s ECCE scheme will reopen on 8 March and the remaining early years childcare will be back by 29 March. 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin last week told TheJournal.ie that it is the government’s intention to get childcare reopened in line with schools. He said creches and the state’s ECCE scheme will reopen on a phased basis from the beginning of March.

Speaking to RTÉ One’s Claire Byrne Live tonight, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said Education Minister Norma Foley is “still in negotiations with the unions” on the matter of reopening education. 

He added that Cabinet “hopes to be in a position” to make an announcement on the reopening of education tomorrow. 

Following tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting, the updated Living with Covid Plan, mapping out how the country might ease restrictions in the coming months, will be published.

Only dates for students returning will be published, with no other indicative dates for the easing of restrictions to form part of the plan.

The government will also extend the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) other and supports for businesses into the summer.

Speaking to reporters tonight, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said that “people are weary, we’re still in a very precarious position”.

Ryan said the focus is “particularly on getting schools back, make sure we do that safely”. 

He added that the plan “gives some hope as well”. 

“First thing’s first is to take care of the next few weeks, we’re still in a very difficult situation and you have to be careful”. 

Other restrictions

Beyond the reopening of schools, no major easing of restrictions is expected tomorrow, with a review of restrictions taking place after Easter.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin last week said that some restrictions would remain in place until at least the end of April.

Construction and retail are likely to be the first industries allowed to reopen once the spread of Covid-19 slows, while hospitality will face a longer wait.

The 5km exercise limit could remain in place until early May, but it will be reviewed after Easter. While Tánaiste Leo Varadkar had indicated he would like to see people allowed to meet up outside, the current restrictions on households meeting up, are due to stay the same until April, at least.

It is understood that there is an appetite among Cabinet members to ease the 5km, but also concerns about if rules are relaxed, people will relax and travel beyond the distance permitted. They are also aware that keeping the 5km in place for too long could result in more people flouting the rules.

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There is also mounting pressure to be more nuanced in the government’s approach to outdoor sporting activities, such as tennis and golf, particularly if it is for people from the same household. 

The Taoiseach told this website last week that the government are very wary of the impact the lockdown is having on mental health, stating that such activities will be reviewed.

There have been reports of the country remaining in Level 5 restrictions until May. The Taoiseach clarified last Friday that Level 3 could be deemed as severe restrictions, stating that he is not stating there will be no easing of restrictions before May.

A further 686 new cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Ireland, the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) has said this evening.

With reporting by Hayley Halpin, Lauren Boland and Orla Ryan 

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