Varadkar does not want to be ‘rushed’ into a lockdown

People will demand exit strategy if Ireland goes to Level 5, Tánaiste says

Leo Varadkar told party colleagues  that in order for the State to go to Level 4 or Level 5, he would need to be convinced it was the right thing to do. Photograph:  Tom Honan/ Julien Behal Photography

Leo Varadkar told party colleagues that in order for the State to go to Level 4 or Level 5, he would need to be convinced it was the right thing to do. Photograph: Tom Honan/ Julien Behal Photography

 

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said he does not want to be rushed into making a decision on a Covid-19 lockdown until it is completely necessary to do so.

The Fine Gael leader told party colleagues on Thursday that in order for the State to go to Level 4 or Level 5, he would need to be convinced it was the right thing to do.

Mr Varadkar told Fine Gael colleagues that if Ireland did go to Level 5, people would demand an exit strategy like they have in Germany.

In Germany, the public receive detailed information on the specific measures that need to be taken to reduce the weekly, and fortnightly, number of cases per 100,000 people to a rate that allows the region to go to a lower level.

Former minister Eoghan Murphy has told colleagues at a parliamentary party meeting that every meeting of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) induces anxiety in the public as to what new restrictions need to be put in place. He said better processes and communication structures were needed.

Asked about his comments afterwards, Mr Murphy said: “I don’t want people thinking I was attacking Nphet because I wasn’t,” he said.

“My point was that any time Nphet meet, it now causes huge anxiety. People are terrified about what they may recommend, even though those recommendations may not follow through to actions. It’s doing a lot of damage, to mental health, to business confidence.

“Their advice is crucial to how we tackle Covid but the current management and communication structures in place are fuelling an already existing sense of public panic.”

Confusion

Elsewhere Labour leader Alan Kelly said households would “light the fire” with the Government’s plan for living with Covid-19 instead of reading it because of confusion about restrictions.

The Labour Party held an emergency parliamentary party meeting on Thursday to discuss concerns about differing levels of coronavirus restrictions.

On Wednesday the Government announced that Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal would progress to Level 4 restrictions alongside a new restriction which bans all visits to households nationwide.

“All of us never took so many phone calls from people who are confused. Particularly from the elderly who are very upset at what was announced,” Mr Kelly said. “We really feel the Government needs to change the course.” He said the Living with Covid plan had five stages, not “interval stages”.

Compliance

Meanwhile, a senior Oireachtas official berated TDs and Senators for not complying with Covid-19 etiquette such as mask wearing and social distancing in the Leinster House complex and at the Convention Centre Dublin.

At a meeting of the Dáil business committee on Wednesday, Charles Hearne, who is responsible for compliance, told the whips from parties and groups there were too many Oireachtas members not adhering to etiquette on social distancing or mask wearing.

A reference was made to a photograph showing Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath ascending an escalator at the Convention Centre. Neither was wearing a face mask.

A spokeswoman for Mr Donohoe said: “Mr Donohoe takes healthcare guidelines very seriously. Throughout budget day he and all his staff wore masks while at the Convention Centre; while moving from interview to interview, entering the Chamber, coming and going from the building.

“He also observed the protocol for required distance when using the escalator. The picture in question was taken when there were very few people around as part of a number of photos to document the day and does not accurately reflect the Minister’s movements while in the Convention Centre,” she said.