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No decision made over easing of Covid restrictions, says Micheál Martin

 A sign regarding social distancing in the window of a café in Dublin's city centre. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Cate McCurry, PA

No decision has been made in relation to what restrictions will be eased from April 5, the taoiseach has said.

Micheál Martin warned that the situation in relation to the virus was “very fragile”.

It comes as a meeting of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) planned for tomorrow was postponed until next week.

Health experts were due to meet this week to decide whether some restrictions could be lifted.

The meeting had been put back to allow for further data to be analysed before Nphet gave its advice to the government on reopening dates.

The Cabinet is expected to meet on Tuesday to rubber-stamp any changes to current restrictions.

Read More: Fourth wave of Covid-19 can be avoided if people stick to restrictions, taoiseach says

Mr Martin told the Dáil: “The situation in relation to the virus is very fragile.

“We have, in the last seven days, 3,800 cases.

“The sacrifices that people have made has had an impact on getting case numbers dramatically down from January figures.

“The Level 5 restrictions have worked effectively to bring numbers down very, very significantly from where they were.

“But the numbers are still high in one way too, and the fundamental reason for that is we’re dealing with a variant that is highly transmissible and more dangerous.

“No decision has been made in relation to the post-April 5 situation.

“We’ve been engaging with public health advice and research in relation to this.

“We do acknowledge the enormous stress and strain and difficulties the current lockdown is imposing on people, in terms of personal restrictions, on their freedom and their liberties and not meeting up with others.

“We do not want to go back to a situation where we have 2,000 people in hospital.”

Opposition leader Mary Lou McDonald said the public were “fed up and angry” living through three months of Level 5 restrictions.

The Sinn Féin leader said there were thousands of people who had not worked in a year.

“Many haven’t seen family or friends in months, and small businesses are either closing or will struggle to survive,” Ms McDonald added.

She said people were worried about the prospect of a lost summer.

“We’re now approaching April 5, the date that the public had hoped would bring some relief to restrictions, and yet people are still waiting to hear the Government’s plan as to what lies ahead,” she added.

“Indeed, instead of clear communication and strong leadership, what we have had throughout this crisis is mixed messages and kite-flying.”

She criticised the “stuttering” vaccine rollout and failure to ramp up testing and tracing.

Ms McDonald was also critical of the government’s quarantine system, saying it did not go far enough.

From Friday, all passengers arriving into Ireland from one of the 33 countries flagged as high-risk by the government will have to quarantine for 12 days at a hotel.

They are now required to pre-book accommodation in a designated quarantine facility and to pre-pay for their stay.

“The list of 33 countries is far too limited and only two of those 33 countries have direct flights into Ireland,” Ms McDonald added.

“We have a half-baked plan, we’re left vulnerable to the importation of the virus and to further dangerous variants.

“We need a system of real mandatory quarantine for all non-essential arrivals from all countries.”

Mr Martin defended the government’s quarantine system, saying Ireland was the first country in the European Union to introduce mandatory hotel quarantine.

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