Taoiseach says Ireland may be almost fully open by mid-July

Varadkar appeals to schools, teachers, SNAs to participate in school summer programme

Ireland may be almost fully open by the middle of July, rather than the middle of August, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

He told the Dáil there was a positivity rate in tests for the coronavirus of less than 1 per cent down from a peak of 20 per cent.

He said there were 47 coronavirus cases last week but 19 yesterday and progress in suppressing the virus was encouraging. He stressed that the Government’s plan was suppression not mitigation.

Mr Varadkar said it indicates that easing of restrictions could continue and the Government is now conducting extensive work with NPHET (National Public Health Emergency Team) about speeding up phase three and four and “have the country almost fully open by the middle of July rather than the middle of August”.


But he said some restrictions would have to continue including a ban on mass gatherings.

“It all depends on us continuing to keep the virus under control,” but he added that “the last couple of days have been encouraging” notwithstanding the deaths in that time.

Referring to childcare services he said they could re-open from June 29th. The Taoiseach acknowledged that the vast majority of crèches closed for July and August but “we would anticipate that those that usually open for summer months will re-open”.

Mr Varadkar also echoed the comments of Minister for Education Joe McHugh on Wednesday appealing to schools, teachers and special needs assistants to participate in the summer programme for children with special needs in July.

Making the appeal, Mr Varadkar said “we can’t do it without them”.

Opening his weekly debate and question and answer session in the Dáil Mr Varadkar also said that the Health Safety Authority had carried out 1,202 workplace inspections, half of them on construction sites.

“Employers are generally taking a responsibility and proactive approach,” he said, added that 75 per cent had a plan in place for re-opening of workplaces.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times