Cabinet meeting underway but little or no changes to restrictions expected next week; more freedoms later in April 

Cabinet meeting underway but little or no changes to restrictions expected next week; more freedoms later in April 

It is being reported that the most strict restrictions will stay in place until April 12.

A Cabinet meeting is under way to decide upon the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin is expected to make an address to the nation this evening telling the public what freedoms they can expect to return from next month.

Expectations have been dampened somewhat by a stark warning from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) that reopening too much, too fast will risk a fourth wave of the virus.

It has advised a cautious reopening over the next four to eight weeks, to allow the vaccine programme to ramp up and reduce the risk of another wave.

It is now expected that restrictions could be eased on a gradual, phased basis, either weekly or fortnightly.

Speaking to reporters before Cabinet, Public Finance Minister Michael McGrath said: “Victory over this virus is now within grasp.

“It is within our reach because of the collective efforts of the Irish people and so we need to do what we need to do to prevent the fourth wave.

“But at the same time we recognise there is an onus on Government to give something tangible to people who have made such sacrifices.

“I think beyond the next number of weeks, and we will lay out what the decisions are for the next number of weeks, there will be a need to give the general public a sense of what lies ahead of us in the summer, through May, June and July.

“We had a very lengthy engagement with Nphet last evening. It’s fair to say they have concerns about the level of the virus at this point in time and where it might go in the weeks ahead if we don’t stay the course.

“There is a need to stay the course. But there are changes we can bring about that will improve people’s quality of life and that will show that we have made huge progress.

“We’re almost there. We certainly want to make sure that we get through April in decent shape and that people can see then that further improvements are possible in terms of reopening society and reopening the economy.”

 Although April 5 was marked as the date for easing restrictions, Government could now hold off until the 12.

The Government’s priority is for the full return of schools, with all primary and secondary students to return after the Easter break.

County travel and construction to be allowed in mid-April 

It is anticipated that the 5km travel limit will be eased to allow travel within a county, but this is unlikely to take effect before April 12.

Constructions sites have also been lined up to return on that date.

Some outdoor sports such as tennis and golf are tipped to return closer to the end of the month.

Cabinet will also consider reopening outdoor attractions such as zoos and heritage sites.

Severe hardship

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the country’s situation is “extremely difficult and precarious”.

He said: “I think we’re in the worst of all possible situations, because the vast majority of people complied and have suffered severe hardship complying with the public health restrictions.

“But those health restrictions have not worked because essentially the Government let certain vested interests and business interests off the hook.

“They didn’t impose the mandatory quarantine and still refuse to impose a mandatory quarantine.

“So we’re in a very precarious situation where there’s still worryingly high levels of infection, but the vast majority of people have done everything that was asked of them.

“We don’t know where this could lead to. It’s an extremely difficult and precarious situation.” He added: “There’s an unhealthy focus on people’s individual and personal behaviour, when the vast majority of people have done exactly what they were asked to do.” Mr Boyd Barrett called on the Government to impose stricter mandatory quarantine measures and stronger enforcement of work from home provisions.

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