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Level 5: Taoiseach outlines R0 target and says 'reward is to get the shops open'

Michéal Martin says the aim is to “get the R number consistently below 1″.

A boarded up store on Dublin's Grafton St in April.
A boarded up store on Dublin's Grafton St in April.
Image: Leon Farrell/RollingNews.ie

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said that the target for the next six weeks of Level 5 restrictions is to “get the R number consistently below 1″.

Speaking at Leaders’ Questions today, Martin said that the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) would favour getting the R number to 0.5, but that this would be “very, very challenging” before 1 December. 

Martin said the “reward” for reaching the reduced R number would be that the country would move back to Level 3 and that shops would reopen. 

The R number refers to the number of other people infected by one confirmed case. If people with Covid-19 are infecting an average of one person the R0 is 1, if they are infecting two people the R0 is 2, and so on.

In the early stages of the pandemic in this country, the R0 was somewhere between 2 and 4. Immediately after the first restrictions were introduced it then decreased to 1.5 and 3. 

As of last week, NPHET’s epidemiological modelling advisory group chair Professor Philip Nolan said that the R number is 1.4 nationally. In Dublin it’s closer to 1, while in the rest of the country it’s around 1.6, and possibly as high as 1.8.

Due to increasing levels of the virus, the government last night confirmed that the country would be moving to Level 5 restrictions from tomorrow night until 1 December. 

Speaking in the Dáil today, Labour leader Alan Kelly said the government needed to “give people hope” and outline what the metrics for the success of Level 5 would be. 

We need some metrics, we need some measurement, we need you to go out to the public and say, ‘what do we need to achieve?’ What would happen if we achieve the following measurements in relation to the R rate, in relation to hospitalisations and everything else? What will bring us to Level 3? What will bring us to Level 2? It’s about giving people hope, Taoiseach.  

mm Taoiseach Micheál Martin in the Dáil this afternoon. Source: Oireachtas.ie

In response, Martin said that “NPHET have been clear” about what we need to achieve.

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“I think we have to get consistently below the R1 number. Ideally, NPHET would want us to be at 0.5, that would be very, very challenging to get there in six weeks,” the Taoiseach said.

“But there are other measures, consistently that the number is going down and that the trajectory is downward.” 

That depends on all of us working and adhering to the regulations and the guidelines and I think that that is extremely important that we do that. Because the reward for that is to get shops open on the 1 December, get people out back again, and get back to Level 3 would be my objective.

The Taoiseach also said that, as of right now, he wasn’t looking beyond the achievement of Level 3 in the immediate term.

“Level 3 is a controlling level if properly enforced and adhered to. I’m not holding our prospects beyond that right now, it all very much depends on the progress we make over the next six weeks against this virus,” he said. 

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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