Republic of Ireland news

Leo Varadkar warns against 'complacency' over coronavirus restrictions

Gardai at a checkpoint on the M1 between Belfast and Dublin during the coronavirus lockdown
Aine McMahon, Press Association

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned against complacency setting in about the Covid-19 restrictions and said he did not want to speculate about when the country would reopen.

Mr Varadkar echoed comments made by Health Minister Simon Harris, who warned that complacency could be "fatal".

In a video message on Twitter on Sunday night, the minister said the progress made by the Irish people risks being undone if people become complacent.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Irish government urges caution over buying PPE online

Speaking in Dublin today, Mr Varadkar said he shares the minister's concerns.

The Taoiseach said: "Certainly anecdotally and speaking to people, there does seem to have been an increase in traffic and an increase in people out and about.

"It is OK for people to be out and about so long as they observe social distancing. It is OK for people to travel provided those journeys are necessary.

"We do however have a concern not yet backed up by numbers - but we may have numbers later today - that there has been a little bit of complacency setting in.

"That worries us because we are making real progress in terms of predicting the rate the virus is spreading and we don't want to lose that."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the Government has a plan to sort out childcare for healthcare workers

Mr Varadkar said the Government will set out a road map about how the Republic will come out of lockdown but said he did not want to speculate about what would be lifted first.

He said: "What we're working on is a plan that we will have before the end of April.

"It would indicate how we reopen the country in different steps and the criteria for moving from one step to the next.

"Until then, I would rather not speculate or fuel expectations."

Mr Varadkar said the Government has a plan to sort out childcare for healthcare workers after creches and schools were ordered to shut last month.

He said: "We know that there is a significant demand from healthcare workers to have childcare provided so that they can continue to go to their jobs.

"In some families and households, it has been working because one of the couple is working from home or has lost their job - which is really unfortunate.

"We have come across incidents where there are two healthcare workers in the same household and they are struggling to get childcare.

"We have worked up a solution - the money is there to do it.

"But it does require public health clearance from the National Public Health Emergency Team so they are going to discuss it tomorrow.

"I know that it has been very delayed and people are very frustrated about it and there are a lot of contrasting views about it but it needs public health clearance."

Meanwhile, more than one million people are now either fully or partially dependent on the state for income support, according to the latest figures from the Department of Social Protection.

Some 584,000 people are now receiving the 350 euro weekly Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment introduced in March.

There are also 212,000 on the Live Register receiving standard jobseekers' benefit of 203 euro per week.

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