By Tony Winterburn • 24 February 2021 • 7:23
Taoiseach Micheál Martin addresses the nation at Government Buildings. image- Wikicommons
Level Five Restrictions Extended Across Ireland Until April 5.
FULL DETAILS of a revised ‘Living with Covid’ plan were announced by Micheal Martin, who confirmed the extension to the country in a live TV address on Tuesday, Feb. 23. As was expected, the plan includes the phased reopening of schools and childcare, with some school pupils set to return to the classroom on March 1.
Junior and senior infants as well as first and second class in primary schools will be among the first back to school. Leaving Certificate students are also set to return to the classroom next week.
Pre-schools will be allowed to return on March 8, while remaining primary and 5th-year students will be back from March 15. All childcare will be back in business by the end of the month, while all secondary school students will be returning on April 12.
Although he announced an extension of restrictions, Mr Martin moved to try and offer the country some hope. He said that 1.25 million people will have received a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine by the end of March, with the Government setting the ambitious target of administering one million doses a month in April, May and June.
Addressing the nation, he said, quote: “We will get through this. “But I want to make sure that when we ease each particular restriction, we take a careful approach to ensure that when we open something – it stays open. We want to protect as many people as possible in the coming months until we achieve a critical mass of vaccinations. That is why we will continue to proceed carefully and cautiously, keeping the situation under constant review and being informed at all stages by public health advice.”
The 5km rule will remain in place until at least that date, with people being urged to stay at home with the exception of going out for exercise or other essential reasons.
There were no real surprises for the average punter in the new plan, with pubs, restaurants and other sections of the hospitality industry staying shut until June. Non-essential retail will also remain closed until further notice.
The Taoiseach said: “I know that people are physically and emotionally exhausted by this pandemic.
“It has placed enormous pressure on each of us individually and as a society. Businesses and workers are deeply worried about the future and we are all completely fed up with the impositions on our lives. What I want to do this evening is set out in clear, straightforward terms where we are, what is going to happen over the next six weeks, and where we would like to go from there.
“Firstly, it is important to pay tribute to your efforts to suppress the virus since the New Year. The sacrifices you have made have had a very positive impact. Steadily and surely, we are driving down the levels of infection. Indeed, our progress in response to the latest wave is among the best in Europe. And I want to thank you for your effort.”
He explained that the new UK variant of the virus was like a new disease, accounting for over 90% of recent cases confirmed in the country “I cannot overemphasise the importance of continued observance of Level 5 restrictions. It is why, if you are currently working from home, you must continue to do so,” Mr Martin said.
“The key concern is the potential impact of increased mobility of the population on the disease, particularly with the new variant and how easily it spreads. Maintaining restrictions is not a commentary on any one sector – increased mobility is the issue and that is why we must monitor the situation very carefully and keep it under constant review.
“We want to reopen society as soon and as safely as possible,” he added.
Latest Brexit News
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) are to join other pro-British figures to challenge the Northern Ireland Protocol, which has created trade barriers between the British region and the rest of the United Kingdom.
The protocol, which is designed to protect the European Union’s single market without creating a land border on the island of Ireland, has caused significant disruption to trade since it came into force at the start of the year after Brexit.
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