Leo Varadkar: It will be months before people can travel around Europe again

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says he is "increasingly confident" that Ireland can enter Phase-One of the roadmap to reopening the economy on Monday, but warned it will be "months and not weeks" before people can travel around Europe again.
Leo Varadkar: It will be months before people can travel around Europe again
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says he is "increasingly confident" that Ireland can enter Phase One of the roadmap to reopening the economy on Monday, but warned it will be "months and not weeks" before people can travel around Europe again.

Mr Varadkar said that it must not be taken for granted that Ireland can move through the five phases of the document, which was launched three weeks ago, and that we may see setbacks along the way.

The Taoiseach said the Covid-19 virus is "

Read More:

"As we are seeing around the world, this is not a straight path. Sometimes progress is halted and there are setbacks. We have seen examples of this in Germany, South Korea and, again, most recently in Wuhan.

"The crucial thing is to keep doing the right things, to stick to the strategy and maintain our focus and to expect and look for new clusters and flare-ups.

This virus is a fire in retreat. We must quench its every spark and stamp out every ember.

Mr Varadkar added that the Government is committed to protecting the rights of citizens to move freely around the EU, but that these rights have been impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak:

"While these rights may be restricted for a time, due to the pandemic and public health emergency, it is our policy to resume normal travel for business, leisure, study and visits to friends and relatives as soon as it is safe to do so but not before.

"This is something the European Commission is currently working on. However, it is going to be months not weeks before this is possible."

Mr Varadkar said that Ireland must become comfortable with the "new normal" of handwashing, respiratory etiquette and staying home when sick. He said that no amount of face coverings or perspex screens is a substitute for those.

Fianna Fáil leader, Michéal Martin, raised concerns over the Government's €115m a month leasing of private hospitals.

He said that the knock-on effect has been to hamper diagnoses in non-Covid patients. Mr Martin argued that in the event of a second wave of infections, the private hospitals could be recontracted.

"It is now a full part of a system-wide problem of the collapse in diagnostic and treatment activity for non-Covid cases.

There is a significant underutilisation of vital hospital capacity that is no longer justified.

"Overall the situation is a mess. I have been pointing this out for six weeks. The failure to get a proper consultants' contract negotiated has gone on too long. The deal with the operators was one of mutual convenience — the State needed surge capacity and the operators have their expenditure sorted in the initial phase probably where their revenue was not coming in.

"We now need a comprehensive strategy — there is none at the moment — to get that hospital capacity back as comprehensively as possible. It has been a very expensive deal."

More in this section