Cabinet hoping to agree revised plan to reopen society by February 22

Cabinet hoping to agree revised plan to reopen society by February 22

The Tánaiste told a press conference on Tuesday: "Nobody can predict what's going to happen in this pandemic. PIC:MAXWELLS 

Cabinet is hoping to agree to a revised plan to reopen society and the economy by February 22, the Tánaiste has said.

The proposals would come into effect on March 5 at the earliest, and would be a revision to the existing Living with Covid-19 plan.

Leo Varadkar said: "Nobody can predict what's going to happen in this pandemic. We do hope to see reopening of our society and economy through the spring and summer.

"But it's without question that there will be certain sectors, you know, aviation, tourism, entertainment, events, that may not open fully for a very long time."

Mr Varadkar also said he favours taking a "two island approach" to quarantine measures arising from international travel, by coordinating with the UK Government.

The Tánaiste told a press conference on Tuesday: "Nobody can predict what's going to happen in this pandemic.

"We do hope to see reopening of our society and economy through the spring and summer.

"But it's without question that there will be certain sectors, you know, aviation, tourism, entertainment, events, that may not open fully for a very long time."

The reopening of the construction sector is likely to go ahead on March 5, the Tánaiste has indicated.

It is hoped the measures can be agreed by Cabinet in the week of February 22, coming into effect from March 5.

A conservative approach 

But he stressed that Government will take a conservative approach, and that the wider reopening of society is entirely dependent on how the virus behaves between now and then.

"It's important to say that the extent to which we can reopen, if at all, depends on what the picture looks like in a few weeks time" he said.

"It depends on the five and seven-day case average, it depends on the numbers continuing to fall in our ICUs, the number of people in hospital continuing to fall and the vaccine programme being rolled out."

Mr Varadkar said he could not give a date for the reopening of personal services such as barbers and beauty salons, but said it would be "much later" than the reopening of construction on March 5.

However, he said he hoped that friends and families will be able to meet up out doors from then.

He said: "I hope that after March 5 it will be possible for households, for friends and family to meet outdoors.

"That was part of the first reopening, if you remember back in May, you were able to meet with other households outdoors or in a garden.

"We know that this virus is nearly 20 times more likely to transmit indoors versus outdoors.

"So getting people outdoors will be the thing."

The Tánaiste also said the Government is seeking to align with the UK on the issue of international travel.

On Tuesday, the UK government announced a raft of new measures, including a requirement for mandatory hotel quarantine for British and Irish residents returning to England from 33 "red list" countries.

Arrivals from selected countries will be required to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days at a personal cost of £1,750.

Discussions ongoing with British Government 

Mr Varadkar said discussions are ongoing with the British government about taking a two-island approach.

He said: "The best thing I think we can do is try to coordinate.

"Because if Northern Ireland is a backdoor to the Republic of Ireland, Ireland is a backdoor to Britain and to England.

"The best thing we can do is work together on this, and I'm a strong advocate of the two-islands strategy, Britain and Ireland, as much as we can, aligning and working together."

He added: "It would make a lot of sense to me, very logically, that we should have the same list of red countries.

"If we don't have this list, the inevitable is going to happen.

"You're going to have people transiting through Dublin to get to Britain, through Britain to get to Ireland."

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