Easy does it for relaxing restrictions: Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: photo.


By Irish Echo Staff

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said a plan is being developed to relax the current Covid-19 lockdown, but any easing of the restrictions will be done gradually.

And, interestingly, Mr. Varadkar did not speak about a return to normal, but rather what he described as “the new normal.”

Speaking in the Dáil, Varadkar, according to an RTE report, said the lifting of restrictions will not mirror the way in which they were escalated.

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He said he knew the lockdown was difficult and that people were feeling frustrated, cooped up and trapped, but he said "we must keep doing what we're doing.”

Mr. Varadkar, stated the RTE report, said that people wanted to know when things will go back to the new normal, but unfortunately for those who would like an immediate return to a pre-Covid world, he said the easing of the restrictions will be slow and gradual and done in a step-wise, tiered manner.

He said public health and safety and healthcare capacity will continue to be the basis for decision-making.

Changes will be made every two to four weeks, but the government would intervene if things were "going off track" and some elements would be reintroduced.

Mr. Varadkar said he hoped to put the plan before Cabinet tomorrow, Friday, to be approved.

"If a consensus exists, I want to find it," he said.

He said there were five key priorities to be considered in lifting the restrictions: progress of the disease; healthcare capacity and resilience; testing and contact tracing capacity; ability to shield and care for at-risk groups, and risk of secondary morbidity due to the restrictions themselves

Mr. Varadkar said many lives have been saved, but that people cannot falter now, the country was not out of danger yet, but he said the government would give hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

According to the RTE report, the taoiseach began his Dáil address by offering his condolences to all those who have died due to Covid-19, and paid tribute to everyone working on the front lines during the emergency.

He said this was a virus being fought on six fronts, including protecting vulnerable groups, ICU capacity and provision of Personal Protective Equipment. He said it was never a case of prioritizing any one over another.

The taoiseach said that more than 150,000 tests have been carried out and Ireland is sixth out of 27 EU countries on a per capita basis in terms of testing.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that it was very dangerous to propose unwinding restrictions in the absence of comprehensive testing.

She said the testing target of 100,000 per week could not merely be aspirational, but instead they had to be real tests.

She said she was worried that "on the brow" of announcing his roadmap, the taoiseach was lacking ambition on testing.

Only a limited number of TDs were in the chamber due to strict physical distancing rules.

The Dáil has agreed to lower the quorum for debates during social distancing from 20 to 10.