Covid-19: Key lockdown restrictions set to last until late May

Nursing home visits may be possible from April 5th, main focus on schools and childcare

Taoiseach Micheál Martin says the Government will decide in the week leading into April 5th on the level of restrictions that will apply for the following six weeks. Video: Oireachtas TV

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Significant restrictions are set to remain in place until the second half of May, with Government sources downplaying the chances of any major relaxation of lockdown next month.

While Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar both gave strong indications on Wednesday that current trends would allow already-flagged relaxations to proceed, senior Government figures have poured cold water on the suggestion that wider relaxations could be on the cards.

Nonetheless, senior sources said some changes around visitation for nursing homes would be considered for April 5th – if key advice from public health experts supported such a call. The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) will meet on Thursday to discuss visitations.

Fine Gael’s parliamentary party was told by Mr Varadkar no decision would be made on easing restrictions until the first week of April. He said the focus would be on schools and childcare and warned that jumping ahead of the plan could result in going backwards.

Outdoor activities

Coalition figures warned the situation is finely balanced, and that while “we hopefully will be on course” to extend the 5km limit, reopen construction and broaden the scope of outdoor activities, one big outbreak could destabilise matters.

One source said the Government would adopt a “minimalist approach” for the next six-week plan, which will last until May 23rd, and would not bow to sectoral interests. They said it was important not to raise expectations of changes that would not occur, or for the mixed messages that preceded the current plan to be repeated.

While Mr Varadkar on Wednesday suggested the possibility of a resumption of “click and collect” retail activity, other senior figures in Government downplayed the suggestion.

Vaccine shortages

Both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil leaders told their parliamentary parties that the State’s hands were tied by vaccine shortages, with efforts to secure manufacturing of vaccines or excess doses proving futile.

Mr Martin told the Fianna Fáil party meeting there “is no magic tree when it comes to vaccines”.

Elsewhere, the Oireachtas health committee is to write to AstraZeneca demanding answers over the company’s consistent shortfall in vaccine deliveries.

However, some coalition TDs are now openly questioning some aspects of the current restrictions, with five Ministers of State telling The Irish Times that there should be more flexibility considered on numbers at funerals, which follows criticism from the Catholic hierarchy on the same topic.

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