Simon Harris cautions against speeding up the roadmap for reopening Ireland

Health Minister Simon Harris says his "gut feeling" is that Ireland will move to Phase 2 of the roadmap for reopening the economy on Monday, but cautioned against speeding it up just yet.
Simon Harris cautions against speeding up the roadmap for reopening Ireland
Health Minister Simon Harris said that while the overall metrics which will decide whether or not Ireland moves to Phase 2 are 'positive', he is still concerned about the number of cases which come from close proximity to another.

Health Minister Simon Harris says his "gut feeling" is that Ireland will move to Phase 2 of the roadmap for reopening the economy on Monday, but cautioned against speeding it up just yet.

Mr Harris was speaking as Cabinet prepared to meet together in person for the first time since the Covid-19 crisis began.

The cabinet is to meet on Thursday night for an extended session in Dublin Castle's conference centre. The castle has been selected in order for all if not most of the cabinet can be in attendance while maintaining Covid-19 social distancing rules.

The cabinet is expected to discuss the potential date for the ending or “tapering off” of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment as well as issues relating to Brexit and other issues under Tanaiste Simon Coveney’s portfolio.

Friday's cabinet session will return to Government Buildings as usual to discuss the next stage of loosening Ireland’s lockdown restrictions to enter Phase 2 on Monday, as well as regular cabinet issues.

Changes to the government's roadmap by Cabinet are also expected to focus on improving the "wellbeing" of people impacted by restrictions, said government sources.

This could include the opening of some playgrounds in certain areas, alterations to rules regarding children, and easing visitor restrictions in nursing homes, particularly in outdoor settings.

Mass testing for the virus by staff across nursing homes and training for employees is expected to be approved by Nphet while compulsory rules for the testing of patients being transferred into facilities is also expected to get the green light.

This will all be determined by Nphet data issued on Thursday.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said that consideration had been given to adding to the outlines given in the government document.

“If you think about the table that is set out in the road map, there isn’t a great deal of text in the boxes, what we do is elaborate that and provide more detail and guidance that will support the implementation of whatever measures we think are appropriate to recommend.

“I’ve also said that we’re giving consideration to other things that might help things in terms of children."

Mr Harris said that while the overall metrics which will decide whether or not Ireland moves to Phase 2 are "positive" but that he was concerned about the number of cases which came from close contacts to another.

More than half of all cases are due to close contact, figures show.

However, Mr Harris said that the speculation that the government could bring a number of the measures from Phase 3, due to begin on June 29, forward did not sit well with him.

One suggestion had been that the stay at home restriction would skip the 20km guideline to be brought in on Monday and move to allow people travel countrywide.

“My general sense of it is that Phase 2 looks right to me."

"My gut is that if we get through Phase 1 and Phase 2 that would be a real confidence boost before we move on and see the big changes in Phases 3 and 4.

"There are some things in Phase 2 that will result in a lot more movement. Once you get to 20km that’s actually a lot of movement.

“There are also some measures in Phase 2 that allow people to meet indoors with social distancing and there are also measures that allow us to visit people cocooning or shielding or whichever term you prefer.

"My sense is it is roughly speaking the right balance.”

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