Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been urged by ministers to lay out “an exit strategy” on Friday, when Covid-19 restrictions are to be extended by at least two weeks.
Divisions within Cabinet emerged yesterday as a “slight majority” of ministers called for some relaxation of curtailments to personal freedoms for over-70s, construction workers, and those who play golf and tennis.
The ministers, described as the ‘civil liberty wing of Cabinet’, raised concerns about the impact restrictions are having on the population and increased signs of public defiance.
“While we all accept the public health advice, there are areas where the rules can be relaxed without impacting on the suppression of the virus,” one minister said.
Ministers including Paschal Donohoe, Eoghan Murphy, Finian McGrath, and Michael Creed voiced the need for
However, last night came a clear signal from chief medical officer Tony Holohan that the country is still not in a position to ease restrictions on movement.
He was speaking as it was confirmed that a further 59 people had died from Covid-19 in Ireland. It brings to 1,159 the total number of deaths from the disease since the outbreak began.
At Cabinet, ministers were told the country is “not quite ready” for Covid-19 restrictions to be lifted.
It was made abundantly clear that there will be no major lifting of restrictions when a decision is taken on Friday, with one minister saying: “People will be going nowhere next week.”
While acknowledging the tangible strain the restrictions are placing on the population, Dr Holohan said the public “was not to blame” about the fact that restrictions may not be lifted.
He said: “I have seen some reports today suggesting that in some way we’re holding people responsible, or that some suggested blame was attached to the public.
“As far as we’re concerned, we’ve seen a huge level of compliance and positive work on the part of people.
“And it’s just important to keep that up, too. We’ve had a very, very significant reduction in the incidence of the disease.
“It’s a long period of time that people have been asked to comply with these measures, and we know that. But, as compliance increases, so do results.”
Dr Holohan said that the National Public Health Emergency Team was aware of the public desire to end restrictions but said that it, and the reported division between cabinet ministers at yesterday’s meeting, did not feed into the decision-making process.
“As we make these recommendations, we don’t make them lightly,” he said.