Government preparing strategy for moving to increased Covid-19 restrictions

Cabinet setting out clear strategies on how State will exit higher levels, says Varadkar

The Government has been preparing a detailed strategy over the past few days for moving to either Level 4 or Level 5, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.

In response to the continuing escalation of Covid-19 cases throughout the State, Mr Varadkar said, the Cabinet has been doing work around modelling what higher levels will mean for people, and also on setting out clear strategies on how the State will exit those levels.

The work which he said was ongoing is in anticipation of the Cabinet accepting the recommendation of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) to move to Level 5 amid an exponential spread of the coronavirus - less than a fortnight after rejecting similar advice.

Speaking outside Government Buildings on Friday, Mr Varadkar warned that a second lockdown of the State would be more difficult than the first.


“A move to Level 5 has to be thought-through, with all its implications for business, health, travel, employment and education,” he said.

He also stressed that any escalation would have to be accompanied by an exit strategy that would set out clearly for the public the pathway by which the State could return to a lower level.

He also said the Government’s remit was to take wider factors into consideration in addition to public health.

Inter-country GAA

’The Government, on making any decision about moving the level to four or five or back down again, has to take account of a number of things in addition to public health objectives,” the Tánaiste said.

He cited the impact of a lockdown on other health services, mental health, disability services, education, society, jobs and business.

“I feel that a second lockdown would be a lot more difficult than the first,” he said, adding the public would want and expect to know at what point would restrictions be eased again.

Asked about staging inter-county GAA games, Mr Varadkar said that sporting events across Europe were being cancelled because of players with Covid-19, or being close contacts.

“It is possible [to do] but only possible if it is done very safely and that meant trying to bubble and cocoon players,” he said. “It is easier for professional sports rather than amateur sports such as the GAA but that is ultimately a decision for them.”

‘Not surprised’

Mr Varadkar said he would not have expected Nphet to resile from advice they had given before. “Given that the pandemic is getting worse and it’s a picture that is worsening, I was not surprised they were maintaining their advice,” he said.

Expanding on why he thinks a second lockdown would be more difficult, he said that some businesses might not survive being closed for a second prolonged period.

He added that it was also harder for people as Ireland was now going “into winter and bad weather and dark nights and all the rest of it”.

That’s why it was important, he added, to give reassurance of how long it might last, the targets the State needed to achieve, and what the exit strategy would look like.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times