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'We're talking about a few more weeks': Harris says Covid-19 restrictions 'won't be lifted tomorrow'

Current restrictions on public movement are in place until this Sunday, 12 April.

Image: Leah Farrell via RollingNews.ie

MINISTER FOR HEALTH Simon Harris has said the restrictions on public movement currently in place as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic “are not going to be lifted tomorrow”. 

Current restrictions see all non-essential retail outlets closed and people being told to stay home, except essential workers travelling to work or other exceptions, until this Sunday, 12 April. 

Harris signed beefed-up regulations on Tuesday night that will give gardaí the power to arrest and detain individuals flouting the Covid-19 restrictions. 

The laws are due to expire at midnight on Easter Sunday, but Harris has now said the restrictions are likely to remain in place for a number of weeks. 

Speaking with PJ Gallagher and Jim McCabe on Classic Hits this morning, Harris said that ”we’re talking about a few more weeks, right, weeks rather than months, I hope”. 

To be blunt and honest with people, the restrictions that are in place are not going to be lifted tomorrow, we’re going to have to keep at it. 

“What we’re hoping to be able to do is show people what the journey looks like … if we keep at this for another couple of weeks, where does it bring us, what does success look like?

“The virus is probably going to be here for a long time, but we need to get to a point where your mum can see the grandkids again, even if the virus is still in Ireland.” 

Harris said he hopes the country will get to a point where “we know even if people get the virus they’ll be looked after well, the health service won’t be overwhelmed, we kind of get it under control”.

The Minister added that Ireland has made “a good bit of progress” in slowing down the stress of the virus”. 

However, he added that “it’s not where it needs to be”.

“If we got this weekend wrong or if we got a bit lazy or complacent, which is human nature, we’d actually end up going backwards to a very, very dark place,” he said. 

Bank holiday weekend 

Concerns have been raised in recent days over people being more likely to make unnecessary journeys this Easter weekend with sunny weather forecast.

Speaking to Newstalk Breakfast, infectious disease physician at St Vincent’s Hospital Dr Paddy Mallon said one of the “big mistakes” the UK made in relation to its coronavirus response was around Cheltenham. 

“What you had at Cheltenham were tens of thousands of people potentially exposed to a virus that then distributed all around the country, and they’re now looking back at that saying that was probably one of the seminal events in the UK that’s led to widespread dissemination of this infection,” Mallon said. 

He warned that Ireland is looking at “a similar scenario this weekend”. 

“If everyone in … the population centres in the east that are very heavily affected with coronavirus, if they all decide to take off for the weekend, then this weekend will be our Cheltenham and we’ll be sitting in two weeks with an absolute disaster,” he said. 

“If everyone just sits tight … stick to the message to stay home this weekend, we could be sitting here this time next week seeing the rates of hospitalisations and the rates of new infections really starting to drop off quite quickly.” 

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