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Dublin may not now ease controls on May 5 after alarm at new coronavirus cases


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Action plan: Leo Varadkar

Action plan: Leo Varadkar

PA

Action plan: Leo Varadkar

Coronavirus restrictions in the Republic may not be lifted at all - or only eased slightly - from next week due to serious concerns at the high number of new cases being recorded.

Hopes that the May 5 end date for the current restrictions will see an easing in the extraordinary limits on everyday life may be dashed amid continuing alarm at the numbers still catching the virus.

It comes as 701 new cases of Covid-19 in the Republic were announced last night, along with an additional 26 deaths.

In total 1,087 people have lost their lives and there have been 19,262 confirmed cases of coronavirus.

As the outbreak and resulting public health regulations continue to wreak havoc on Irish society and the economy, senior Government sources played down the prospect of any major easing of restrictions next week.

And the possibility remains that the strict rules, including the closure of non-essential shops as well as 2km limits on exercise and cocooning for the over-70s, could all remain in place beyond Tuesday of next week.

The volume of new cases and number of patients in intensive care units, the capacity of the health service to cope with any renewed surge, and a ramping up of testing and contact tracing are the key factors in any decision to roll back restrictions.

One source said consideration is being given to not lifting restrictions at all on May 5, or if any measures are rolled back it would be very limited.

While the number of people with coronavirus in ICUs was 123 as of Saturday night, down from a peak of 160, this is still considered too high.

Decisions will be taken by the country's National Public Health Emergency Team later this week on what restrictions, if any, can be eased.

After that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is due to set out the Government's plan for a step-by-step approach to relaxing restrictions over the coming weeks.

Sources said Mr Varadkar will outline the action plan for when restrictions can be eased without necessarily specifying dates for certain measures.

Rather it will be a roadmap of sorts for rolling back restrictions in phases "at the appropriate time" for each action.

A source said the aim will be to provide more certainty to families and businesses for the weeks to come so that they can start to plan, but it won't all be implemented on May 5.

Measures under consideration for an easing of restrictions include letting over-70s leave their homes to exercise as well as flexibility on the 2km limit for others going for walks or runs.

Garden centres and DIY stores where social distancing can be carried out are seen as businesses that could reopen in early phases of relaxed restrictions.

Childcare staff being allowed into the homes of healthcare workers is also being considered as an early measure.

However, a source stressed that even smaller movements of people being permitted leads to a risk of the virus spreading and such measures are unlikely to be taken together in one go.

Belfast Telegraph