Leo Varadkar: 'Double bank holiday' on the cards for next March

The Tánaiste said the government will not rush into imposing new restrictions
Leo Varadkar: 'Double bank holiday' on the cards for next March

Asked about the prospect of adding new restrictions to help curb the spread of the virus, Mr Varadkar said that he would not like to see the Government rush into making a decision just yet. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The Government will not rush into imposing new restrictions, the Tánaiste says.

Leo Varadkar told Today with Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio that while the Covid-19 pandemic is "not under control", he sees "reasons to be hopeful".

Asked about the prospect of adding new restrictions to help curb the spread of the virus, Mr Varadkar said that he would not like to see the Government rush into making a decision just yet.

"I wouldn't like us to rush into any decisions either because it would be a big mistake I think for us to impose a whole set of new restrictions in the next couple of days only to find out that we've turned the corner anyway."

Mr Varadkar said more restrictions may be needed in the coming weeks.

"I think we may need more restrictions heading into the Christmas period but I don't think we need to be fatalistic about a return to any form of lockdown or even a 'lockdown light', and I think we should try to avoid that," he said.

The Tanaiste emphasised that he didn't want to get into speculation on restrictions for "very good reasons."

"We have been dealing with this pandemic for nearly two years now and when you start to speculate about possible restrictions you really cause anxiety. If more restrictions are required we will inform people of them at that point in time.

"It may be a plateau or it may be a case that we are starting to see a peak. I met the CMO yesterday and indicated that we would probably need another week or so to make any firm decisions.

"Anything that might come out of the Nphet meeting later today won't be in terms of major decisions to close businesses or so on. It will be further advice in certain areas particularly perhaps in relation to children because we are seeing a very big increase in the caseload in that five to 11 age group and indeed among their parents."

Mr Varadkar said that while he did not want to be critical of NIAC, he said that he would like if decisions around third vaccine shots had been made sooner, adding that he was particularly concerned about those who had received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

"I have profound concern for them because there's very strong evidence now that immunity from that particular vaccine falls to as low as 20%," he said.

The Tánaiste said that an expected Nphet discussion on mask-wearing in schools was welcome, saying that even if school children wore masks even some of the time, it would cut the transmission.

He added that he expects to see pop-up vaccination centres set up in migrant communities soon, saying that efforts needed to be made to get the public health message to those communities.

On a move to introduce a new bank holiday, Mr Varadkar said that the Government is examining the prospect of a "double bank holiday" by making March 18 a public holiday for 2022. 

This, he said, would mark two years since the outbreak of the pandemic. From 2023, however, it would likely swap to around February 1 to mark St Brigid's Day.

Mr Varadkar last night told a private Fine Gael meeting that the current Covid wave looks to be plateauing at a worryingly high level.

The Covid trajectory is uncertain and “everything would be done to avoid another lockdown”, he said.

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