Tánaiste says third short period of Covid-19 restrictions may be needed in New Year
Varadkar says measures should be eased next week but not so much that means prolonged lockdown in January
Tanaiste Leo Varadkarfollowing a cabinet meeting at Dublin Castle. Photograph:Gareth Chaney/Collins
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has signalled that a third wave of restrictions may be necessary in the New Year after the Christmas holiday period.
Mr Varadkar did not call it a lockdown but said “a short third period of enhanced restrictions may well be necessary in January or February but we should try to avoid it being a prolonged one.”
During a debate on the Covid-19 in advance of the Government’s decision on the situation after the Level 5 lockdown, Mr Varadkar said “I believe we should ease restrictions next week but not so much that requires us to return to Level 4 or Level 5 for a prolonged period in the New Year”.
He said they could not ignore North-South travel and said the incidence of the virus in the North is a multiple of what it is in this State and so is the mortality rate.
Northern Ireland makes its own decisions under the Belfast Agreement he said “but we’d be in denial not to recognise that the less intense approach to the virus there since the start has its consequences”.
The Tánaiste added that they had very good data on the incidence of cases due to international travel but they did not have similar data for north-south travel
“This is a gap in our data that needs to be closed as it does affect our ability to make evidence-based decisions.”
Opening the debate Taoiseach Micheál Martin said “we are not yet in a position to return to normality or close to normality.
“Our approach will continue to be to go as far as possible, but no further.”
Mr Martin said “the second wave is not over by any means. If there is one thing we know now it is that taking the virus for granted is the foundation for its spread.”
Indicating that all sectors will not re-open the Taoiseach said “the reality is that for some activities the guidance will be that there is too much risk - and for all activities there are core guidelines and restrictions on how we act which we must respect”.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that “common sense and compassion” has to be applied for all Christmas travel and family meetings, especially for Christmas,especially for families who have had a particularly bad year whether bereavement or because of elderly relatives who are socially isolated.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said Ireland has now signed up through the EU for five of the different vaccines for which approval is currently being sought. He said the 14-day rate of infection had gone from 310 per 100,000 four weeks ago to 109 on Tuesday. “That’s the biggest decline anywhere in Europe.” But he said the reproduction rate of the infection had gone from 0.6 to 0.8.
And he told the Dáil there are currently 98 clusters in residential care settings including 48 in nursing homes.
Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall said there had to be proper risk assessment and there was a need for certainty for businesses including pubs serving food and retail in general, who require a two-week lead in to re-open.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said thousands of student nurses and midwives were working on the frontline and in March the Government accept they should be paid but they were now working again for no payment,
Independent Verona Murphy said Level 5 restrictions was to increase ICU and hospital bed capacity and to ensure testing and tracing capacity were put in place “to keep us out of lockdown” in the future. She pointed out that the WHO was against such lockdowns as a solution.
Aontú TD Peadar Tóibín said the decisions Government took on restrictions meant that 150,000 cancer appointments with 200,000 women waiting for cancer screening. “Today 480 people today got diagnosed with cancer. Twenty four people today died of cancer. Twenty seven people today died of heart disease and stroke and these health issues have not had the necessary resources given to them because of the Government’s restrictions. “
He also said organisations dealing with suicide had reported to the Minister for Health that there had been an increase in the number of people taking their own lives.