Level 5 restrictions extended until April 5

Phased reopening of schools begins on March 1
  • Deborah Condon

Level 5 restrictions are to last until at least April 5, the Taoiseach, Micheal Martin, has conformed.

Addressing the nation on Tuesday evening, the Taoiseach acknowledged that people have now endured almost 12 months of COVID restrictions and are "physically and emotionally exhausted".

"We are all completely fed up with the imposition on our lives," he said.

He explained that the updated COVID plan, The Path Ahead, is made up of two phases - the eight weeks until April 5 and the period beyond that.

During the first phase, restrictions will continue, however schools will begin their phased reopening during March. Primary-aged children in junior infants, senior infants, 1st and 2nd class are set to return to school on March 1, while 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th will return two weeks later, on March 15.

In secondary schools, Leaving Cert students will return on March 1, 5th year students will return on March 15, while 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th years will not return until after the Easter break, on April 12. At this point, they will have just seven weeks left in school before they finish for the summer.

Meanwhile, the ECCE programme will also resume on March 8, while all other early learning and childcare services will reopen on March 29.

The Taoiseach emphasised that the new variant originally identified in the UK has "changed the dynamics significantly" due to its increased transmissibility and so school and childcare services will be monitored carefully.

If things are going in the right direction, a move to phase two will take place after April 5. This will include looking at things such as outdoor gatherings, the gradual reopening of construction and extending the 5km limit.

However, Mr Martin said that it is "critically important that we do not let our guard down".

"When we open things, we want them to stay open, so I cannot over-emphasise the importance of following public health measures. We want to reopen society as soon and as safely as possible," he insisted.

When it comes to the vaccine programme, he said that "our only limit has been supply".

"We are making steady progress and we are now in a position for a major ramping up of the programme," he noted.

He said one million doses will be administered in each of the months April, May and June and this means that by the end of June, 82% of adults will have received their first dose and 55-60% will be fully vaccinated (two doses).

"I understand the frustration out there, but there will be vaccines for everyone who can be vaccinated," he said.

He also insisted that the economy "will be in a position to recover", and added that all support schemes for businesses will be extended until the end of June.

"We will get through this, we just need to stay focused and get through this next few months together. The end is now truly in sight," he added.

For more on the upcoming changes and the latest COVID plan, The Path Ahead, click here.


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