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Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

Taoiseach says 'vaccine bonus' and people's 'mental well-being' will influence decision on restrictions

An announcement on restrictions is expected early next week.

THE TAOISEACH HAS said the government will consider the effect of the vaccine and people’s mental well-being when it considers easing Covid-19 restrictions next week.

The government will this week consider any changes to the regime ahead of an announcement next week that would apply from 5 April. 

Back in February, the government flagged that the areas that would first be considered for easing are meeting other households outdoors, an extension of the 5km travel limit and a staggered return of amateur sport and construction. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s News a One today, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that these areas remain the focus of the government’s attention. 

Asked about the roll-out of the vaccine programme, which has now reached over 10% of the population, Martin was asked whether there is a vaccine bonus that impacts the government’s ability to ease restrictions.  

“We’re going to factor that into how we look at the post 5 April scenario, it’s different to what we would have done in previous situations,” he said.

The bonus will be clear in terms of avoiding mortality, avoiding severe illness and the spread, that’s the bonus. And then it opens up a decisions for us as a society which we will address to people early next week and will be working on this week. 

The Taoiseach said the government will also consider the fact that more vulnerable groups are vaccinated when deciding on the level of restrictions. 

He said the target for all over-70s to be fully vaccinated is still mid-May and that the aim is for them to receive their first dose is mid-April. He described these targets as “significant”.

“These are issues that we’re going to consider. The key point is this, the over -70s is a key milestone. Then you want to get the over-60s and the people with underlying conditions as well. So we are targeting the most vulnerable and it is having an impact and yes that will create a different decision-making process,” he said. 

The Taoiseach also spoke about last night’s confirmation of 769 new cases of Covid-19 and concern about the potential for a continued rise in cases. 

Martin said that now-dominant B117 variant is “essentially a new virus in terms of its transmissibility” and must be treated extremely carefully. 

He said that the variant is the “most significant factor” in the difficulty in driving cases down further but that “more congregation and a degree more mobilisation” has also played a role.  

The Taoiseach said however that Covid-19 rates are “nowhere near” what they were after Christmas and that this is due to the efforts of people. 

He said people have adhered to advice in “very difficult” circumstances and that this shouldn’t be ignored. 

“The strategy has worked in terms of the measures that have been taken. People by their behaviour have brought numbers significantly down to a situation where we’re now in a far better place relative to our partners in Europe,” he said.

We’re going to take that into account, the mental well-being of people, the community well-being of people. So issues like sport, outdoor activities, what can we do to help young people, that’s all in the frame for us to consider over the next week in government. But what I’m saying to people today is your efforts have borne fruit.

“We’re heading into a difficult phase now because the numbers are flattening out because of this variant, which is much more difficult to control than previous iterations of the virus.” 

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