Simon Harris: It was not a mistake to speed up Ireland's reopening

Mr Harris said the acceleration came upon the advice of NPHET.
Simon Harris: It was not a mistake to speed up Ireland's reopening
Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD. Picture:Gareth Chaney/Collins

HIGHER Education Minister Simon Harris says that he does not feel the last government made a mistake by accelerating Ireland's Covid-19 recovery roadmap.

Mr Harris was the Health Minister in June when he and then-taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced a jumping ahead of the original roadmap to move to what they called "Phase Two Plus".

Since then, the overall number of cases of the virus has dropped, but a resurgence in recent weeks has seen Kildare, Offaly, and Laois locked down. 

However, Mr Harris said the acceleration came upon the advice of NPHET and was always envisaged as a flexible scheme.

"We advanced the roadmap exactly in line with the Chief Medical Officer's advice," he said.

"So, what the Tánaiste and myself said was we were going to put a roadmap in place that was viewed as one of the most conservative roadmaps in terms of the timelines and as the chief medical officer reviewed and said it safe, we reopened more.

Mr Harris said the decisions were taken with an overall view of the health of the nation and was not confined to the impact of coronavirus.

He said: "Think of the health of somebody who hasn't been able to leave the house go to work for weeks, think of the health of somebody lying in bed at night wondering how they're going to pay the staff wages and the mortgage."

Mr Harris said the time had now come to implement a new national plan for living with the virus, adding that it needed to be built on honesty and transparency with the public.

"I think we're at a point now where we do need a new national plan for Covid. The roadmap served us well, it got most of our country back up and running, back open, but Covid is going to be here for quite a period of time, and we need to prepare for that. And key to us, I keep on saying this because I passionately believe it, is having an honest conversation in this country and making sure those all groups, all sectors, buy in... so nobody has to turn on the news at night surprised by what it means if there's an outbreak in their county," he said.

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