The Taoiseach says that he cannot speculate on whether restrictions on movement will end on Sunday, but says current rules are saving lives.
Speaking at McKee Barracks in Dublin as he visited the Defence Forces’ Joint Task Force on Covid-19, Leo Varadkar said that any decision on the easing or continuation of non-essential movements will be made by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).
Mr Varadkar said the Government will act on any such advice “within hours”.
The Taoiseach added that he understood the frustration which people are feeling.
“As is always the case, the Government acts on the advice of the national public health emergency team — that’s a team made up of public health doctors and biologists so they will recommend to us later in the week as to whether the restrictions need to continue or whether they can be modified in any way.
“We will act on that advice within hours, as we have since the start of this crisis. But I don’t want to speculate on that because that’s really very much in their domain.
“To people over 70 who are continuing to cocoon, including my own parents and I think many people’s parents and grandparents, all I can say is, I know it’s frustrating to be stuck indoors or cooped up or not to be able to hold your grandkids and go to the shops for yourself and all of the things that we never thought we wouldn’t be able to do as part of our normal lives, but it is working.”
He said the measures are saving lives.
“We are starting to see the number of new infections and new cases level off, and ultimately this is about making sure that those people in their 70s and 80s, and 90s — our parents and grandparents — get to see many more birthdays in the years ahead.
“And I think it’s worth that sacrifice for the next few weeks.”
The Taoiseach said that there is no specific team planning how Ireland can resume normality, as has been established in some European countries, but said he is aware of the problems in easing the restrictions and said reopening individual counties was not an option.
“For example, if we opened the restaurants in one county, but not the other one, would people not flock to that county? So there’s all these things that have to be borne in mind.
“And like I say, if we remove restrictions, there is a real risk that the virus will start to spread again. But we also know that the restrictions can’t last forever.“
The Taoiseach also says that his return to medicine will allow him “take the temperature of the health system” during the Covid-19 crisis, but says there will be “no photo opportunities”.It was revealed over the weekend that the Taoiseach, who rejoined the medical register last month, would take a half day each week on a GP telemedicine line.
Meanwhile, Liz Canavan, assistant secretary general at the Department of the Taoiseach has said further work is underway in direct provision centres to protect the health and welfare of asylum seekers and refugees.
Centres have been requested to generate onsite self-isolation capacity and as a further protection for all residents, some centres have been temporarily closed to visitors.
She said 650 temporary hotel beds secured last week are being used to support vulnerable residents, provide offsite accommodation for self-isolation, and help with social distancing measures by reducing the overall number in some existing centres.
“This increased capacity is a critical part of the overall strategy to protect residents. Further offsite self-isolation facilities are being examined on a regular basis as well.”