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Taoiseach urges vigilance as Covid-19 suppressed in community

Leo Varadkar said the Government will make a decision on whether the country can move to phase two on June 5.

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A man jumps into the sea at the Forty Foot in Sandycove, Dublin, as the bathing spot has reopened (Brian Lawless/PA)

A man jumps into the sea at the Forty Foot in Sandycove, Dublin, as the bathing spot has reopened (Brian Lawless/PA)

A man jumps into the sea at the Forty Foot in Sandycove, Dublin, as the bathing spot has reopened (Brian Lawless/PA)

The transmission of Covid-19 in the community has been effectively suppressed, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

Mr Varadkar has defended the country’s “slow and steady” approach to easing the lockdown.

Speaking in the Dail on Thursday, he said the impact of the restrictions on the reproductive rate will not be known until the first week in June.

He welcomed the fact that the number of new coronavirus cases has been below 100 for the past five days in a row.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

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(PA Graphics)

“We take some comfort in the fact that the trend is going in the right direction – transmission in the community has been effectively suppressed.

“We need to stay vigilant, we really won’t know until the first week of June whether the easing of the restrictions has increased the reproduction number, or to what extent.”

He said the Government will make a decision on whether the country can move to phase two on Friday June 5, four days before the roadmap target date of June 9.

“I know that some other countries are opening faster, but every country’s circumstances are different, we stand over the slow and steady approach.”

Meanwhile, Minister for Health Simon Harris announced that a Covid-19 nursing home expert panel is to be established which will examine and advise on safeguard measures.

He said the panel will consist of four members including a public health expert – who will chair the group – a geriatrician, a senior nurse and a public interest representative.

Mr Harris explained: “This is a crucial aspect of good planning, it’s a NPHET recommendation to support Ireland’s navigation through the Covid-19 landscape and ensure the best possible safeguards are in place to protect the many people who call nursing homes their home.

“I would expect this group to do its work by the end of June, so we can share it with this House as we prepare for the weeks and months ahead.

“I also wish to advise the House that tomorrow I intend to update the government on further measures we intend to take in relation to travel, in relation to protecting our country, in relation to ensuring that there are measures in place at airports or ports.

“Regardless of anybody’s nationality, when you come through an airport or port now you need to fill out a passenger locator form, and each person is asked to self-isolate for two weeks, provide the State with an address of where they will self-isolate.”

Senior government official Liz Canavan warned that businesses that have reopened ahead of the Government’s planned roadmap risk slowing down the progress the country has made.

Her comments came following concerns that a number of businesses that were not scheduled to open for another number of weeks have already reopened.

Ms Liz Canavan said she understood the temptation to reopen, however she warned that even if businesses are applying Government-enforced return-to-work safety protocols, they cannot open.

“This is phase one, it’s a small step. The concern is not just around the safety of particular settings, it’s also about the volume of people moving about,” she said.

“Those businesses who say they can open safely or see a loophole in the health regulations are not respecting the spirit of the approach that is set out in the roadmap.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

(PA Graphics)

“They risk slowing down the progress for everyone else.

“So I am appealing to businesses to take the responsible approach.”

As part of the easing of restrictions, people are able to meet up in groups of four in outdoor settings while adhering to social distancing rules.

Ms Canavan said that while the weather is good, people are taking advantage of these relaxed rules.

“Nevertheless, we can’t relax and have to remember this is only phase one,” she continued.

“The five kilometre rule still applies if you’re meeting up with people, as it does to exercise and journeys to public amenities.

“Social distancing rules still apply. We have a responsibility to one another not to make unnecessary visits to the homes of our families and friends just yet, or to have playdates or barbecues that don’t abide by these rules.

“Everyone knows that slow and steady will win the race so we just have to hold firm.”

The coronavirus death toll in Ireland rose to 1,571 on Wednesday after a further 11 deaths were announced.

There were 64 new confirmed cases of the infection, bringing the total since the outbreak began in Ireland to 24,315.

PA