JUST a limited lifting of Level 5 restrictions is expected when the Government announces its decisions, which come into effect on Easter Monday.
On the advice of NPHET, it is understood there will merely be a tweaking of the current regulations, with no end in sight for pubs and hairdressers or other non essential retailers.
The considerations on the table are now limited to the following five:
- A lifting of the 5km travel limit
- Expanding limited outdoor gatherings, beyond one other household
- A phased reintroduction of construction
- Sports and training be allowed for children
- And allow adults’ outdoor non-contact sports like golf and tennis
The middle of May might see a lifting of restrictions for hairdressers.
But leading health officials have said it will be “some time” before vaccination can allow social restrictions to be eased in Ireland.
They have also warned that we are in a “very different situation” than we were in Spring 2020 because of mutations of the virus, and that we cannot expect progress to be made at a “similar rate”.
The message came in the newly-released NPHET minutes, which covered the meeting on February 18 and in which NPHET expressed serious concerns over a further surge in infections, and said that case numbers remained “extremely worrying”.
The note reads: “The preliminary modelling presented suggests that there will be a continuing need for restrictions to suppress transmission until such time as a sufficient proportion of the population is vaccinated to effectively suppress transmission by immunity alone.
“It was further noted that while emerging data shows that vaccines will play a critical role in the management of Covid-19, it is simply too early to predict what the full impact of vaccines will be. Uncertainties and unknowns in relation to variants and vaccine effectiveness and uptake levels were noted.”
Meantime, HSE Chief Executive Paul Reid has said that “everyone over the age of 70 will have been offered their first vaccine dose by the middle of April”.
The final phase of schools reopening is set to commence after the Easter break on April 12 when secondary school students from 1st year to 4th year are due to go back.
Tanaiste Leo Varadkar has discussed the issue in a live Q&A video on his instagram, where he assured parents that students “definitely are” returning to classrooms after the Easter break. The Tanaiste said this assurance was despite the recent spike in cases.
“Numbers aren’t looking great but I’m confident that schools will stay open and that secondary schools will be fully back on April,” he said.
However, those students sitting oral exams in the Leaving Cert will now be retired to wear a mask as will their teachers.
The number of schools hit with at least one case of Covid-19 took a significant jump in the week ending March21 – the latest figures available – according to the latest figures from the HSE.
Public health teams conducted mass testing in 183 schools, up 70% on 108 the week before.
There was a doubling, from 35 to 71, in the number of tested childcare facilities.