Minister for Health Simon Harris has said that regional responses to restrictions for Covid-19 could be considered, but that it would be difficult to implement in a small country like Ireland.
A “more nuanced approach” was something that could be considered, he told, especially when there were county figures like Sligo where there has not been a case of the virus in 23 days.
Mr Harris also appealed to the public to “cop on” and to keep a list of people they meet.
He said he was concerned about the increase in the number of contacts people were listing when diagnosed with the virus.
“Now is not the time to meet your first cousin once removed,” he said, urging people to keep the number of close contact to small numbers.
The Minister also said he would like to see more people
Later on RTÉ radio’s. Mr Harris said that progress against the virus was still fragile, but that “today is a great day for the country, a really good day. People brought us to this point.”
The Minister said he wanted to see the good day become a good week, a good month and a good year. He called on people to decide in advance who they were going to meet and to do so out of doors if possible. “If we get through this phase things are looking good.”
However, Mr Harris warned that if the ‘R’ number begins to increase then public health experts will step in and advise the government what to do. “Thankfully the trajectory is low” at present, he said.
Public health advice remained that a physical distance of two metres was safer than one metre, he added, but there may be some settings where the two-metre guideline could not be easily applied, such as in the hospitality sector.
The issue will be reviewed by Nphet over the next week to two weeks to provide guidance, he said. “We need to do this in a public health led way, not by ‘he who shouts loudest.’
“What looks slow today, looks prudent in a few weeks. We are showing that we are willing to adapt. We are looking at the remaining phases and how best to sequence
“We may be able to get the summer back.”
The Minister defended the government’s timing on the reopening of schools saying that the safety of children had been a priority. The reopening of creches was also a challenge, he said and they could not open until it was safe to do so.
When asked about government formation talks and if he would remain in his portfolio, Mr Harris said he loved being Minister for Health and that he expected there would be a draft plan for government later this week. A number of key issues needed to be resolved, he added.
“I hope this week will see progress.”