Government to plan for next nine months of living with Covid-19

Government to plan for next nine months of living with Covid-19
Taoiseach Micheál Martin

The government will meet next week to discuss a six-to-nine-month plan aimed at living alongside Covid-19.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that the Cabinet will meet next week to discuss Ireland's next step in its response to the virus. Mr Martin was speaking after the Cabinet sub-committee on the virus met virtually to discuss the lockdown imposed on three counties.

He said the committee's meeting next week will discuss the medium term plan for living with Covid-19 "for the next six months to nine months". However, Mr Martin said this would not represent a new roadmap.

"We've opened up a considerable degree of society and obviously like other countries, we've seen increases in numbers and we have to look and plan ahead for potential scenarios that may emerge while protecting people and keeping community transmission low. That's the ongoing challenge," Mr Martin added.

"There's been an increase in numbers so we’ve got to look and plan ahead in terms of potential scenarios that might emerge but also how we maintain that level of economic activity."

However, public health expert Dr Gabriel Scally cautioned against any approach that would leave the virus in communities.

“There's always more to be done until the virus is eliminated," he told the Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk.

"The economic consequences of going on with this rollercoaster ride of up and down are really, really difficult: the best way of avoiding them is to get the virus down to zero, and put on strict public health controls at borders to make sure we don’t import cases."

Mr Martin also confirmed that serial testing is to be rolled out at meat plants across the country.

The news comes after Kildare, Laois and Offaly were ordered back into restricted movement on Friday after a series of Covid-19 outbreaks in meat plants and Direct Provision centres.

Mr Martin said there will be testing in meat factories initially on a weekly basis in the three counties and that will then progress across the country before progressing to fortnightly over time.

"There will be a serial systemic programme of testing in all meat plants across the country along with direct provisions centres. It has seen success in nursing homes and will continue in nursing homes on a regular basis. The overall capacity is strong in terms of HSE's testing and tracing capacity.

"At the moment, we are concerned about the spike which occurred in the midlands. Overall numbers are up across the country but community transmission remains stable according to the Chief Medical Officer."

The Taoiseach says his Cabinet has been approached by a number of different representatives from Laois, Kildare and Offaly, in the days since the counties saw greater lockdown restrictions imposed. He said ministers will meet again this week to discuss how best to aid business in those counties.

"Our concern, to be frank, is vulnerable groups in congregated settings," he said.

The Taoiseach also confirmed that the Tánaiste will communicate with the Ministers for Finance and Public Expenditure to discuss an aid package specifically targeted at those businesses in the Midlands which have had to close in the regional lockdown. Sources say that the plan will be announced this week and could see a "substantial" amount of money put towards those counties.

"We had an economic assessment from the minister of public expenditure, and looked at measures which could be taken to help businesses in three countries restricted last Friday. The relevant three Ministers, the Tánaiste, the Minister for Finance and Minister for Public Expenditure, they'll be meeting this week with a view to actioning some response by the end of the week."

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