'Knowing what we know now': Taoiseach says December restrictions were wrong in hindsight

Micheál Martin also said he does not expect St Patrick's Day festivities to go ahead this year. 
'Knowing what we know now': Taoiseach says December restrictions were wrong in hindsight

When it was put to Micheál Martin that the government had gone against Nphet advice, he said he did not think it was "a helpful discussion to go back in hindsight and try and apportion blame". Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The Taoiseach has admitted that the easing of restrictions before Christmas was a mistake.

The government has come under sustained criticism for ignoring Nphet advice, which recommended against opening non-essential retail, hospitality and household visits together at the start of December. The weeks after this reopening has seen a devastating spike in Covid-19 cases, with Ireland being counted among the quickest rising case numbers in the world.

The Tánaiste Leo Varadkar admitted today that the move to level three "turned out to be too quick".

When it was put to Micheál Martin that the government had gone against Nphet advice, he told Virgin Media News he did not think it was "a helpful discussion to go back in hindsight and try and apportion blame".

"In hindsight, knowing what we know now, would we have done what we did a month ago? Obviously not," he said.

"Nobody predicted, in any model, the level of community transmission that we're currently experiencing, but at the time we were coming out of the six week, level five series of restrictions, that was preceded by a level three max series of restrictions, Ireland has been on a lot of restrictions right throughout this pandemic."

Mr Martin then claimed "all people" wanted to move to level three at the time.

"In hindsight knowing what we know now, we certainly wouldn't have made decisions," he added, before claiming media were "overplaying that discrepancy on one particular sector of a wider society.

"I don't think that's a valid assertion."

On vaccines, Mr Martin admitted although roll-out had ramped up that "we don't have enough to do everybody at once".

"That's the bottom line," he said.

"We don't have the delivery coming in to enable us to do that. We want to prioritise frontline healthcare workers, we want to prioritise residents and staff working in nursing homes and this week, the emphasis has been on the nursing home front and having really been concentrating on frontline healthcare workers."

The Tánaiste Leo Varadkar admitted today that the move to level three "turned out to be too quick". Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The Tánaiste Leo Varadkar admitted today that the move to level three "turned out to be too quick". Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

He says that January and February will see "low volumes" and as "we move beyond healthcare workers and beyond the hospitals and the nursing homes with residents and workers, we will then engage with the wider population".

Mr Martin said he could see "vaccine passports" happening if people want to travel.

"We could see that happening but by July, I think we'll have a substantial number of members of our population, citizens vaccinated.

"I think the world will be a different place, but it is very very challenging, and we're very worried about mutations, what they may do to the vaccine, so we have to be careful in projecting to far out, one step at a time."

He added that Irish people shouldn't be using websites that claim to predict when individuals are likely to get their vaccine, saying they are "nonsense".

Mr Martin added that he did not see any St Patrick's Day festivities going ahead this year, however, did note that there is a possibility of President-elect Joe Biden visiting Ireland at some point in the next ten months.

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