Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said there needs to be a debate and discussion around the different ways Ireland can reduce the number of Covid-19 cases in the country.
Mr Varadkar said there should be talks between Government and opposition parties about the pros and cons of different measures, including the zero-Covid approach.
Opposition parties have been calling for a more aggressive response to the virus, with many in favour of mandatory quarantining for all arrivals into Ireland.
Labour leader Alan Kelly has backed a national aggressive suppression strategy, which he believes will give people in Ireland a “chance of normality”.
“I actually don’t believe in the phrase zero-Covid myself, but I do believe in the tenets of it. I believe in the national aggressive suppression strategy,” Mr Kelly told the Dáil.
“The vaccine we now know won’t be the panacea for 2021 that we thought it will be, it’s going to take a lot longer.
“So we need to work on suppressing the virus. Your Taoiseach (Micheál Martin) has said it’ll be a long-term suppression strategy.
“I want to get to the point of distinguishing what is the difference between the government strategy – long-term – and what many of us in the opposition are saying now.
“We need to give people a chance of normality, some form of normality in 2021, whether it’s funerals, weddings, communities, or whether it’s hospitality getting back up.
“I want to clearly say that I believe that the public are ahead of us.”
Mr Varadkar said he agreed with a number of measures including aggressive test, trace and isolate, and mass antigen testing.
But he ruled out a de facto hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland.
He said this would prevent people moving between the north and south, and turn border counties into “buffer zones”.
“But I do think there needs to be a debate and discussion on these things. I think it needs to be detailed,” Mr Varadkar added.
“I think we need to talk about the practicalities and I think we also need to talk about the pros and cons, and nobody should enter any discussion or debate on these matters ruling out any strategy or dismissing or rejecting any proposals or suggestions.
“That’s very much my approach, and that of the Government.”
Mr Kelly called for a strategy for the border.
He said that bringing in tighter measures would enable the Government to focus on where the virus was within communities.
“In doing so, with the vaccines coming up, we can give an opening to this country and our people and bring back their civil liberties,” he added.
Mr Varadkar said the Government’s strategy was to get Covid levels down.
“We want to get numbers down as low as possible. I don’t know how low that is, but as low as possible to between now and March 5,” he added.
“In that period, we do want to bring about the phased reopening of schools, starting with those children with special and additional needs.”