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Minister says Covid-19 numbers are 'deeply concerning and the current trend is not sustainable'

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform said the government stands ready to act on any fresh NPHET advice.

Minister Michael McGrath
Minister Michael McGrath
Image: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

THE GOVERNMENT STANDS ready to act on further advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET), Minister Michael McGrath has said.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform told RTÉ Radio 1′s This Week programme that while he hopes additional restrictions aren’t necessary, the numbers we’re seeing now with Covid-19 are “deeply concerning”. 

“I think we have to be straight with people,” he said. “The numbers are deeply concerning and the current trend that we’re witnessing is not sustainable.”

Separately, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics that it’s possible Dublin won’t be moved to Level Four of restrictions in the near future and emphasised the government’s commitment to keeping schools open. 

McGrath and Ryan were speaking as the latest daily figures from yesterday showed 613 new cases of Covid-19 in Ireland, the highest daily number since April. 

Dublin and Donegal are at Level Three of restrictions currently, and the worsening numbers in other counties could mean additional restrictions are recommended by NPHET in the coming week. 

“I know that people are weary, we’re all weary,” McGrath said today. “Everyone has paid a price in terms of their own personal liberty. Many have paid a very significant economic price because of the restrictions we’ve had to impose.

But we need to get on top of this, and we need to do more. We do all have to ask ourselves what more can we do to adhere to the public health advice, which we all know at this stage. It’s very difficult and tough on people but as a government we have to stand ready that if we receive further recommendations from NPHET, then we will be examining those swiftly.

Minister Ryan said the goal isn’t to “eradicated the virus” as it wasn’t a “viable option” but to establish it.

“I think that there is real concern when you look at other counties – it is rising very fast,” he said. “We need to do the simple things, reduce the number of people we meet, avoid social contact.

“If we all do that we can avoid going to level 4, other counties can avoid going to level 3 and I hope that Dublin can get back to level 2 and Donegal too.”

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He added that he believed it was possible that the infection rate could be stabilised but he admitted that everyone was “fearful” when the daily numbers continue to rise.

Meanwhile, and with less than 10 days until Budget 2021, McGrath said the government was close to finalising the provisions that will be in it. 

“It isn’t time to withdraw vital supports for the economy,” he said, adding that the “overarching focus” will be supporting businesses and jobs in the months ahead.

McGrath indicated that there would be a “very large Budget deficit” this year, and that a “firm eye” was needed on Ireland’s “fiscal sustainability” going forward. 

“Now is not the time to be pursuing austerity or anything like it,” he added. 

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Sean Murray

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