'Absolutely not' - Health Minister explains Ireland will not return to normal after two-week lockdown

'Absolutely not' - Health Minister explains Ireland will not return to normal after two-week lockdown

The Minister for Health Simon Harris has confirmed that most construction workers will not be considered "essential" through the Covid-19 lockdown.

The Government is expected to publish a full list of the workers it classes as essential later this morning.

As of midnight, everyone in Ireland has been ordered to stay at home except in limited circumstances in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

People can go outside to shop for essential items, pick up medicines and health products, attend medical appointments and exercise within 2km of their homes. Food shopping is exempt from the 2km travel limit.

We are only permitted to go to work if it is deemed essential and if it can’t be done from the home.

On Newstalk Breakfast with Susan Keogh this morning, the Health Minister said construction workers will only be permitted to continue if they are building something that is essential to this pandemic.

“So for example if we were to decide that we need to put in modular units or adapt a hotel or build things that we need to actually get through this pandemic – of course that would be essential,” he said.

“But in general, the message is really simple here. I need everyone in Ireland to stay at home.

“You should only be leaving your home if you are absolutely doing something that is essential to getting us through this pandemic and keeping our people safe and well."

Mr Harris acknowledged it was a stressful and worrying time.

“But we do have to strip back all of the noise and actually remind each other what we’re trying to do here, we’re trying to keep each other alive and we’re trying to make sure we don’t go the way that some other European countries have done,” he said.

“When we look back on this, and we will look back at this at some point and we will get through this at some point, we want to be able to say that the measures we all took together were really tough but helped keep people alive and well.”

He also admitted that the restrictions will not be sustainable for a long period.

Mr Harris expressed hope there could be some relaxation of the measures after an initial two-week period of enforcement, but he warned that life will not be returning to normal in the short term.

He said admissions to intensive care units are expected to rise significantly over the next week with people already infected with Covid-19.

“But we would expect, and our medical advisers would expect, that these measures that we’ve put in place could start to slow down that curve in about 10 days to two weeks, that’s what we’re working towards,” he told RTE Radio One.

Will we be in a position on the 12th of April where life in Ireland will return to normal? Absolutely not and let’s be honest with each other.

“And these are measures that we’re going to need to continue to work on.

“Do we hope to be in a position in two weeks’ time to say that we’ve made progress and some of the measures can be tweaked, removed, changed? Absolutely.

“The measures that we put in place last night are so significant that they cannot be kept in place for too long.

“You cannot ask people to sustain this for a very long period. That’s why we are really asking people to double down now for the next two weeks, it’s going to be tough.”

    Useful information
  • The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here
  • Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people - this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department;
  • GPs Out of Hours services are not in a position to order testing for patients with normal cold and flu-like symptoms. HSELive is an information line and similarly not in a position to order testing for members of the public. The public is asked to reserve 112/999 for medical emergencies at all times.
  • ALONE has launched a national support line and additional supports for older people who have concerns or are facing difficulties relating to the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Ireland. The support line will be open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, by calling 0818 222 024

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