‘Cautious’ approach to reopening will focus on outdoor activity and 5km limit

Further 13 deaths of coronavirus patients and 604 Covid-19 cases reported

A further 13 coronavirus-related deaths and 604 confirmed cases have been reported in the State.

A total of 4,666 people have died with Covid-19 in the Republic since the pandemic began.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) reported that the median age of those who died was 77, with an age range of 51-93.

Twelve of the deaths reported on Sunday occurred in March while the date of the 13th was “under investigation”.


Of the cases reported on Sunday, 224 were in Dublin, 45 in Donegal, 36 in Kildare, 34 in Limerick, 26 in Tipperary and the remaining 239 cases were spread across 20 other counties.

A total of 322 people were being treated in hospital for the virus on Sunday morning, 18 more than the same time on Saturday. This compares to the 366 people who were hospitalised with Covid-19 last Sunday, March 21st.

Sixty-six of those were in intensive care. This compares to the 366 people receiving hospital treatment for Covid-19 last Sunday, March 21st.

There are currently 66 people in intensive care with the virus, down from 80 last Sunday.

Offaly continues to have the highest 14-day incidence rate in the country at 443.8 per 100,000 people followed by Donegal at 283.9 and Dublin at 246.9. The national average 14-day incidence rate is 164.5 per 100,000.

Earlier, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the "room is very narrow" for lifting Covid-19 restrictions next month.

He said the Government would take a “cautious” approach to easing lockdown measures from April 5th.

The Government is expected to make an announcement on its plans for the restrictions following a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

“We’ll be looking at the 5km restrictions, at outdoor activity and completing the full return to school after Easter.”

Mr Coveney also said “we would like to see some level of opening of the construction industry” because of the pressure on housing but he said that “the first priority has to be public health and avoiding another wave of the virus”.

“The approach by Government will be cautious. We don’t want to allow restrictions to be eased and then have to re-introduce them.”

Speaking on RTÉ radio's This Week programme he said "we are trying to ensure we don't allow a fourth wave of virus between now and when the vast majority of people who want to be vaccinated will be", which he said was expected in mid-July.

The Minister said the National Public Health Emergency Team would report to Government on Monday and the Cabinet subcommittee will meet at 6pm on Monday and it will make recommendations to the full Cabinet on Tuesday morning.

Minister for Sport Catherine Martin told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics the Government expected to be in a position to extend the 5km travel limit, allow some outdoor sporting activity and to allow people to meet up outside with more than one other household.

“We want to give people signs of hope but we have to be realistic too. There are genuine concerns around a fourth wave,” she said.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the plan for lifting restrictions needs to have the resources allocated and recruitment done to ensure that testing and crucially tracing is up to scratch. While retroactive contact tracing begins in two days “we’re a year into this crisis they still haven’t recruited the target number of contact tracers they set themselves. That system has really struggled to function and keep up and that is frankly disgraceful, a year into an emergency like this.”


She said the only way to deliver a medium-term plan to lift restrictions is by “setting out you plan to have all the building blocks of our defences in place.

“It’s not just a case of opening things up. It has to be a matter of keeing things open and for so long as we’re not getting testing and tracing, quarantine and vaccination in place you cannot talk in real terms about re-opening but staying open.” The 5km limit is extremely difficult but there cannot be any prospect of success without getting those correct, she added.

Meanwhile, more than 760,000 Covid-19 vaccines have been administered in the Republic so far.

Figures from the Health Service Executive show that as of Thursday, 548,945 first doses and 211,223 second doses had been issued.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said on RTÉ radio’s This Week programme that by Sunday evening close to 800,000 vaccine doses would be issued, with about 15 per cent of the adult population having received their first dose and 6 per cent their second dose.

They will continue inoculation of the over-70s through April and May “completing that programme”.

Outlining the vaccination schedule for April and May he said they will begin next month vaccinating 200,000-220,00 in the “very high risk” category of people with underlying conditions and aged between 16 and 69.

That will run to early May when vaccination of the “high risk” group in that age group will begin. “In parallel with that in April and May we will be vaccinating people between 65 and 69”.

He said that “as we roll into May and June we then reach out into the wider populations through vaccination in our GP clinics, hospitals and vaccination centres”. He said they currently have 14 vaccination centres in place but will have 30 operating through April.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times