Lockdown will go 'well into February', Coveney tells Fine Gael parliamentary party

Mr Coveney told the meeting of TDs, Senators and MEPs that the current restrictions are working and the "rapid increase of Covid in communities has stopped"
Lockdown will go 'well into February', Coveney tells Fine Gael parliamentary party

Simon Coveney told the meeting that the current health restrictions will remain in place "for future weeks".

The current lockdown will go "well into February", the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting has been told.

Deputy Leader of the party Simon Coveney told the meeting that the current health restrictions will remain in place "for future weeks".

Mr Coveney said the issue would be discussed at a Cabinet sub-committee meeting next week and then at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday but warned that the "vast majority of restrictions" will be maintained well into February.

Mr Coveney told the meeting of TDs, Senators and MEPs that the current restrictions are working and the "rapid increase of Covid in communities has stopped".

Mr Coveney's warning comes as the Government prepares to review the lockdown implemented in December, which closed non-essential retail and schools. 

Sources have said that it is "extremely likely" that the restrictions go on for at least another four weeks beyond the stated end date of January 31. Hospitality groups have been warned that they may not open until April or May.

The meeting heard that if the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is approved by the European Medicines Agency on January 29 or before, it will "change the pace of the vaccine administration here". 

However, there was much anger and frustration at recent reports that doses of the vaccines were given to family members of staff at hospitals. 

There were suggestions from a number of members including junior minister Patrick O'Donovan and senator Garrett Ahearne that there be a sanction for those who either "skip the queue" or for hospitals in which protocol isn't followed.

Sources say that the meeting heard that while there is a protocol in place for excess doses of vaccines, there is "no point in it being there if there is no sanction". 

However, MEP Frances Fitzgerald said that sanctions may not be workable and better communication around the rollout was needed.

The meeting was told that the Department of Education is "doing everything that it can" to reopen schools for children with special needs, while the issue of the Leaving Cert was raised. 

Some in the party argued that the Leaving Cert should now be replaced with predicted grades, but former Education Minister Richard Bruton said it should be possible to run the exams.

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