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Here's what's in the new Living With Covid roadmap

Taoiseach Micheál Martin made the announcement this evening.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin addressing the nation this evening from Government Buildings
Taoiseach Micheál Martin addressing the nation this evening from Government Buildings
Image: Julien Behal

THE GOVERNMENT HAS announced its new and updated ‘Living with Covid-19′ plan, which sets out the easing of restrictions over the next couple of months.

The plan was announced this evening in a live address by Taoiseach Micheál Martin at Government Buildings.

The plan sets different levels of restrictions that can be in place depending on the levels of Covid-19, as well as the level of vaccinations that have been rolled out.

In a live address at 6pm, Micheal Martin said: “I know that people are physically and emotionally exhausted by this pandemic. It has placed enormous pressure on each of us individually and as a society.”

Martin stressed that “it is critically important that we d not let our guard down” and continue to observe Level 5 restrictions.

The Taoiseach confirmed that the current public health restrictions will remain in place until 5 April, when a further review will be carried out.

Education, however, will begin to reopen in the coming weeks. 

Schools

From next Monday (1 March) we’ll see the return of junior infants, senior infants, first class and second class in primary school and Leaving Cert students in sixth year in second-level. 

Two weeks later, all primary school children may begin returning from 15 March with a return for fifth years also expected at this point. 

The remainder of secondary school students won’t be returning to school until after the Easter holidays however. 

Childcare

From 8 March, the Early Childhood Care and Education programme will reopen. 

The 29 March will see the reopening of early learning and care, and school-age childcare services will reopen. 

After 5 April

The plan outlines that if transmission of the virus reaches acceptable levels, the vaccine programme progresses as planned and public health advice allows, further options that will be considered from 5 April are: 

  • Some easing of restrictions on outdoor activities and meetings beyond 1 other household
  • Consideration of extending the current 5km limit
  • Staggered start of easing of other areas of restriction with a focus on outdoor activities including sport and some areas of construction

Any further easing of restrictions after 5 April will need a further three to four week period to allow for assessment of the impact of changes, the plan outlines. 

Vaccines

Addressing the nation this evening, the Taoiseach said Ireland is making “steady progress” with the vaccination programme, adding that over 350,000 vaccine doses have been administered to date. 

Martin said that 1.25 million doses will have been administered by the end of March. 

“Then, depending on vaccines arriving as scheduled, we will administer, on average, more than one million doses per month during April, May and June,” Martin said. 

The Taoiseach explained that, in practical terms, by the end of April up to 47% of people over the age of 18 will have received their first vaccine dose. 

“By the end of May, up to 64% will have had their first dose,” he said. 

“And by the end of June, up to 82% of adults who can be vaccinated will have received at least one dose and 55% to 60% will be fully vaccinated.” 

Other measures

An additional €10 million in funding will be made available to meet the increase for mental health services, and a further top-up of €10 million will be made available to enable critical services to continue being delivered to vulnerable groups.

The following supports are being extended until 30 June: 

  • Pandemic Unemployment Payment
  • Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme
  • Covid-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit
  • Covid Restrictions Support Scheme
  • Suspension of redundancy provisions
  • Commercial rates waiver

People who can work from home are being asked to continue to do so.

Speaking this evening, the Taoiseach said: “It is critically important that we do not let our guard down. 

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“We are carefully and gradually reopening schools because we need to get our children back into education. This will represent a major relief for both pupils and hard pressed parents.”

Martin said that when parts of society beings to reopen, “we want them to stay open”. 

“That is why I cannot over emphasise the importance of continued observance of Level 5 restrictions. It is why, if you are currently working from home, you must continue to do so,” the Taoiseach said. 

“The key concern is the potential impact of increased mobility of the population on the disease, particularly with the new variant and how easily it spreads,” he said. 

“Maintaining restrictions is not a commentary on any one sector – increased mobility is the issue and that is why we must monitor the situation very carefully and keep it under review. 

“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.”

With reporting by Christina Finn

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