The trajectory of Covid-19 in Ireland has gone downwards but the country still has some distance to go, the Taoiseach has said.
Micheal Martin said the Government intends to keep the pressure on the virus so that the country can reopen next month.
“Thankfully in Ireland the trajectory has gone downwards,” he told Sky News.
“We are at the highest level of restrictions at the moment, and the combination of the last number of weeks is resulting in a significant reduction in the number of cases.
“We still have some distance to go.
“We intend to keep the pressure on the virus so we can open up in December and into the months of January, February and March. Hopefully a vaccine will arrive towards the end of the year that will give people some hope.”
Speaking later after a meeting of party leaders and Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan, Mr Martin said a “window of opportunity” can be created.
“We went into this for the six-week duration to get the numbers really down to very, very low levels so that we could have maximum flexibility for December and beyond, and get a long stretch in terms of bringing back the economy and reopening society and enabling people to get back to work,” he told RTE.
“We are doing a lot of work to analyse and preparing the exit from level 5, but also in terms of what works for different sectors for the future.”
Mr Martin said restrictions on households have had a “big impact” in terms of curbing the spread of the virus.
“Human behaviour ultimately is the key and in terms of congregation,” he said.
“We are conscious that people want a Christmas, it won’t be the same as last year, it can’t be because of a global pandemic and the impact of that.
“Nonetheless, we are all learning as we go along, individually, collectively as families in terms of how Covid impacts.
“I do believe we can create a window of opportunity for December to enable people to have a good Christmas, albeit a different Christmas to what we might normally experience.”
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said there were “clear signs” that level 3 measures combined with the introduction of level 5 restrictions were having an effect on the spread of Covid-19 and on the numbers of people who are being infected with the virus.
But he added it was “too early” to develop an exit strategy to come out of lockdown.
“What we’re going to do very carefully is evaluate that data in advance of the end point of level 5 and form a view regarding what the appropriate exit strategy is,” he said.
“The Government set the target of the reproduction rate of the disease of well below 1. There are signs that we’re beginning to get to that point. But regarding how we’re going to exit from where we are at the moment at this point it’s a bit too early for me to answer that.”
Mr Donohoe added that he understood that businesses were looking for certainty about when they might be able to reopen but he said he also had to be clear that the Government’s current restrictions “absolutely stands”.
“If we do have the data and form the view in conjunction with Nphet that the disease is moving to a stable and lower place of course the Government will do all it can to give businesses time to organise themselves and be ready for opening,” he said.
“But overall our message is that the decision that’s made in terms of level 5, the breathe and duration of level 5, is unchanged.”
The Dublin Central TD made the comments as the Government unveiled details of a new support scheme to support businesses significantly affected by Covid restrictions.
Mr Donohoe announced the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) on Budget Day. It opened for applications on Tuesday and to date more than 3,850 businesses have applied.
Ministers @Paschald and @cathmartingreen today launched the Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) to support businesses significantly impacted by Covid restrictions.— Department of Finance (@IRLDeptFinance) November 6, 2020
Read more: https://t.co/SiZlhXJMRb pic.twitter.com/tB8VAhtRIA
Tourism Minister Catherine Martin said the scheme would deliver a much needed “financial lifeline” directly to businesses who have been badly affected or have been forced to close due to coronavirus restrictions.
“The tourism sector has been devastated by the impact of Covid-19 by the complete loss of overseas tourism, and the social nature of tourism and hospitality has meant the sector has faced even greater challenges as public health measures escalated,” she said.
Ms Martin added the CRSS scheme would give businesses affected by the restrictions some “much needed certainty” despite the pandemic related uncertainty looking set to continues for “some time to come”.
Eight further deaths of people with Covid-19 and 499 new cases of the virus were reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team on Friday.
Of the latest cases of the virus, 175 were in Dublin, 72 in Cork, 29 in Limerick, 26 in Mayo, 21 in Meath and the remaining 176 cases spread across 19 other counties.
As of 2pm on Friday, there were 302 patients with Covid-19 in hospitals, of which 38 were in intensive care units.