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Monday 11 December 2023 Dublin: 7°C
Sam Boal/ Dr Tony Holohan (left) with Dr Ronan Glynn at yesterday's briefing.

Taoiseach says 'active consideration' will be given to NPHET's Level 5 advice as leaders set to meet tomorrow

The Government will now have to decide if it will accept NPHET’s recommendation.

LAST UPDATE | Oct 16th 2020, 10:05 PM

THE TAOISEACH HAS said that the government will give “active consideration” to NPHET’s advice to move the country to Level 5 for a period of six weeks.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan will all meet tomorrow following NPHET’s latest advice. 

The recommendation comes less than two weeks after NPHET first recommended the move to Level 5, which the government rejected.

Speaking on Wednesday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that the country was not ready to move to Level 5 at that point, stating that preparations to support businesses would be required ahead of such a move. 

Martin cited the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) announced in the Budget and it is understood that further work is ongoing to assess the impact of a nationwide move to Level 4 or 5. 

The Taoiseach’s comments

Speaking this afternoon in Brussels, Martin said that the “serious advice” will be given “active consideration” by the party leaders.

“So we’re giving this very active consideration, the situation is very serious. And we will need further action in relation to this,” he said.

“Obviously this is very serious advice that we’ve received. It has to be considered properly. And people have to be given clear clarity around it and that’s why we are going to meet tomorrow in the first instance.”

There have been meetings this morning, the secretary general of my department and officials have been meeting the CMO to go through in more detail the advice and the modeling of NPHET.

“I agree with NPHET in terms of the priorities that we all share, in terms of protecting the vulnerable and the elderly from the coronavirus and making sure our children can continue to go to schools.”

The Taoiseach said that the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath will also be part of the discussions tomorrow to consider NPHET’s advice.

We have measures in place in Ireland that many European countries, even though they higher numbers than we have, don’t have in place yet. That said, we take advice from NPHET very seriously and this is going to get very good consideration. 

“I don’t have the timeline on it but the government will have to meet and in advance of government meeting we have to have the situation well documented and well prepared.”

Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan told RTÉ’s Drivetime that the three party leaders would meet tomorrow, but said that a date for a Cabinet meeting was yet to be decided.

Level 4

Border counties Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan were moved to Level 4 this morning as part of efforts to stem the high case numbers in these counties.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar confirmed that Cabinet would not meet today. He told reporters that a second lockdown would be more difficult than the previous shutdown, and that the public would want and expect to know an exit strategy if it was implemented.

However, work is said to be ongoing in relation to the implications of a move to Level 4 or 5 nationally.

The development comes after NPHET last night delivered a sobering assessment of the current spread of Covid-19, with Chief Medical Office Dr Tony Holohan saying the disease “was not in control”. 

The chair of NPHET’s Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group Professor Philip Nolan said last night that the current trajectory of the virus increase would see 1,800-2,200 cases a day, and over 400 people with in hospital with Covid-19 by Halloween.

Professor Nolan also said that hospitalisations are “increasing exponentially, in fact, increasing exponentially faster than we projected 14 days ago”.

Today’s figures

Today, 1,000 Covid-19 cases were confirmed in Ireland, and 1,299 cases in Northern Ireland. 

Meanwhile, the national breakdown of Covid-19 incidence by local area shows that parts of Cavan and Donegal – which is now under Level 4 restrictions along with Monaghan – have the highest 14-day incidence rate per 100,000.

Ballyjamesduff’s 14-day incidence rate is 651.1 cases per 100,000. Lifford-Stranorlar, Donegal is second highest with 610.3 cases per 100,000 followed by Cork City South-Central which has 566.4 cases per 100,000. 

As of 8am today, 244 Covid-19 patients are hospitalised, of which 29 are in ICU. There have been 25 additional hospitalisations in the past 24 hours.

Sinn Féin’s position

Speaking to RTÉ’s News at One, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the country is now in a “very dangerous and grave situation”, and urged the government to meet urgently to discuss the recommendation. 

She said that “everything needs to be on the table”, including school closures if necessary, when assessing what decisions need to be made next. 

McDonald also urged the government to restore the pandemic unemployment payment and wage subsidy schemes to their original levels, along with mortgage breaks and protections for renters.

Labour’s position

Labour leader Alan Kelly told RTÉ’s Drivetime that they would support moving the country to Level 4 for three weeks, and “another three weeks if necessary”.

Kelly also said Labour would bring in regulations on wearing masks, introduce rapid testing, put pressure on employers to bring in working from home, and implement a plan for older people in relation to social bubbles. 

“We’re not going to have in any way a normal Christmas… I believe the four issues (above) need to be dealt with by the Government, and the Government need to stick to the plan – there’s five Levels.” 

He said that Garda checkpoints at county borders were not necessary, and those resources should be redirected elsewhere. 

With reporting from Rónán Duffy, Cónal Thomas, Christina Finn

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