Varadkar raises possibility of inquiry into handling of Covid-19 pandemic

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has raised the prospect of an inquiry into the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, as the outgoing coalition lifted foreign travel restrictions and announced new supports.
Varadkar raises possibility of inquiry into handling of Covid-19 pandemic

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has raised the prospect of an inquiry into the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, as the outgoing coalition lifted foreign travel restrictions and announced new supports.

Air restrictions will be lifted on July 9 as part of a 'green list', allowing people to fly without having to quarantine in other places with low Covid-19 levels or when they return home.

A new once-off grant of €1,000 will also be made available to the self-employed and those employing less than 10 people, the government announced.

Finishing up what is likely his last Cabinet meeting as Taoiseach in this government, Mr Varadkar also confirmed the country will enter phase three of the lockdown exit plan next week.

But he confirmed he did have some regrets about how the government handled the pandemic. Furthermore, there may be an inquiry some time in the future into what went right and wrong, he said.

“We haven't faced a pandemic like this in, maybe two or three generations," he said. "There was really no roadmap manual that we could follow.”

He said all decisions were made on the best advice.

“Back then [in March], there was a concern maybe 20% or 35% of the population could have got this virus, that's 1.5m people," he said. "If 3% of those had died, that would have meant deaths of between 30,000 and 40,000. That's the kind of position we managed to avoid.

“I do think when this is all over we are going to have to have some sort of assessment or inquiry what was done right or wrong.”

He said it would have been good to have done testing “sooner” in nursing homes.

“As it turned out, we were the first country in the world to test all nursing home residents and staff.”

“Had it been possible, we would have done it sooner and perhaps saved more lives in nursing homes.”

While outlining the new system to lift air travel restrictions, he said this could result in new spikes or outbreaks. But the so-called green list of countries, to be unveiled on July 9, will be monitored and could be changed every two weeks.

Mr Varadkar repeated to people not to engage in non-essential travel if contemplating going abroad. He was also vague about whether Britain will end up on this green list of so-called 'air bridge' countries.

"When it comes to Great Britain it depends on the numbers, but at the moment the instances is very high so if it was today we would not be removing the 14 day requirement for travel from Britain, so we’ll see where we stand on the 9 July."

Reflecting on the potential last Cabinet meeting of this government, he said it had been “the honour” of his life to serve as Taoiseach for the last three years.

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