Limited easing of restrictions before May - Varadkar

Updated / Monday, 1 Mar 2021 23:13

Leo Varadkar said a relaxation of the 5km rule is among the measure likely to be considered if cases of Covid-19 continue to fall

By Mícheál Lehane

The Tánaiste has told his party colleagues that only a limited number of restrictions are likely to be eased before May.

Leo Varadkar wrote today to the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party to say that if cases of Covid-19 continue to fall and if there is reduced pressure on hospitals, then some changes will be considered from 5 April.

They include: a relaxation of the 5km rule, a reopening of construction, the return of click and collect at non-essential retail outlets, and more outdoor activity.

However, he added that no further consideration would happen until the end of April or early May.

Mr Varadkar said the number of vaccines administered each week will rise to between 200,000 to 300,000 in April.

He said there would be a renewed focus on better ventilation, rapid antigen testing and on the test, trace and isolate system.

The Tánaiste said that mandatory hotel quarantine will be in place within weeks.

He told his colleagues that there was no reason for anyone to be off message for the next few weeks.

"March is about reopening schools, pre-schools, childcare and resuming routine healthcare safely," he wrote.

The Tánaiste said the Government's updated plan offered the chance for Fine Gael to "reset" how it communicated with the public. 

The plan makes it clear what will and will not happen over the next ten weeks, he said.

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Elsewhere, Professor Pete Lunn, ESRI head of behavioural research, said the latest studies show that while people are finding it tough going, the large majority (79%) believe that preventing the spread of Covid-19 is more important than the burden of restrictions.

Just 10% disagree, according to the new Social Activity Measure, which looks at how people are coping with the prolonged period of restrictions.

Speaking at the NPHET briefing this evening, Prof Lunn said the data also shows systematic misperceptions about social activity.

Prof Pete Lunn, ESRI head of behavioural research, says there is a big difference between what people think and how they behave. People are saying it is tiresome sticking to the guidelines, but they consider preventing Covid spread as more important. |

— RTÉ News (@rtenews) March 1, 2021

"There is a clear misperception. Most people believe that others are enjoying more of a social life than they are," he said.

"Those who are in fact most socially active do not realise this."

He said that the data shows that half the adult population does not meet up with anyone outside their household over a 48-hour period, with less than one quarter meeting up with three or more.

Additional reporting Fergal Bowers