Min­is­ters pre­pare to ‘ease us in’ to Level 5 lock­down

:: Cabi­net wants to fol­low slower step-by-step plan

Irish Independent - - Front Page - Philip Ryan, Se­nan Molony and Cather­ine Fe­gan

MIN­IS­TERS want to re­ject Nphet’s ad­vice for Level 5 re­stric­tions – but se­nior Gov­ern­ment fig­ures say it is in­evitable that near-lock­down re­stric­tions will be in­tro­duced in the com­ing days.

There is a grow­ing be­lief that Cabi­net will again shoot down Nphet’s call for the high­est level of coron­avirus reg­u­la­tions and in­stead in­tro­duce Level 4 re­stric­tions.

Min­is­ters are ea­ger to stick to the Liv­ing with Covid-19 Plan, which al­lows for a stepby-step ap­proach to in­tro­duc­ing new rules. This would mean mov­ing to Level 4 be­fore Level 5.

Mean­while, Pro­fes­sor of Health Sys­tems at DCU, An­thony Staines, has said Level 5 must be im­ple­mented with­out de­lay.

He said the virus had been out of con­trol for more than a month.

“We lost con­trol around the first week of Septem­ber,” he said.

“We are fac­ing a sce­nario where ei­ther the health­care sys­tem to­tally col­lapses, or we ac­cept se­ri­ous re­stric­tions.”

MIN­IS­TERS want to re­ject Nphet’s ad­vice for Level 5 re­stric­tions – but they ac­cept more mea­sures will have to be in­tro­duced to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus in the com­ing weeks.

There is a grow­ing be­lief that Cabi­net will again shoot down Nphet’s call for the high­est level of coron­avirus reg­u­la­tions and in­stead in­tro­duce Level 4 re­stric­tions.

How­ever, se­nior fig­ures in the two main Gov­ern­ment par­ties say it is in­evitable coun­try­wide near-lock­down re­stric­tions will be in­tro­duced in the com­ing days.

Min­is­ters are ea­ger to stick to the Liv­ing with Covid-19 plan, which al­lows for a stepby-step ap­proach to in­tro­duc­ing new rules. This would mean mov­ing to Level 4 be­fore Level 5.

The most sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences be­tween the two lev­els is that un­der the top level of re­stric­tions pubs and restau­rants can pro­vide only take­away and de­liv­ery ser­vice, and peo­ple can­not travel fur­ther than 5km from their home.

One Cabi­net min­is­ter said: “The re­al­ity is the next few weeks will be very re­stric­tive. You can call it what you want but things are go­ing to be bad.”

The min­is­ter said the Cabi­net may “mod­ify” the Level 5 re­stric­tions so they were not as se­vere as set out to al­low peo­ple travel fur­ther from their homes. “It would be es­sen­tially Level 4 but we could call it Level 5.”

An­other se­nior min­is­ter said: “The safest course po­lit­i­cally is to ac­cept the ad­vice as num­bers are likely to rise for the next few weeks in any sce­nario but I don’t know if that is the right thing to do.”

A third Cabi­net min­is­ter said: “I would be against mov­ing to Level 5 straight away.

“We need to move up the lev­els as set out in the plan.”

Mean­while, there is frus­tra­tion in Cabi­net over the lack of an exit strat­egy or tar­gets for ex­it­ing the strat­egy in the Nphet plan.

A Gov­ern­ment source said

the Nphet let­ter did not set out how the six week lock­down should end.

Yes­ter­day, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he would give the Nphet pro­posal “very de­tailed con­sid­er­a­tion” ahead of the Cabi­net com­mit­tee meet­ing on Covid-19 to­day.

Tá­naiste Leo Varad­kar said the Gov­ern­ment would con­sider the pub­lic health ad­vice along with other eco­nomic and so­cial fac­tors be­fore reach­ing any de­ci­sion.

“It has to take into ac­count a num­ber of things – ob­vi­ously the pub­lic health ob­jec­tives around sav­ing lives and pre­vent­ing trans­mis­sion of the virus but also the im­pact on men­tal health, gen­eral health, im­pact on dis­abil­ity ser­vices, on ed­u­ca­tion, on so­ci­ety and on jobs and that’s what we will do,” he said.

It comes af­ter the Gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced Level 4 re­stric­tions for Ca­van, Mon­aghan and Done­gal on Wed­nes­day and a na­tion­wide ban on house­hold vis­its.

At the meet­ing, Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Si­mon Har­ris sug­gested the en­tire coun­try should be put into Level 4.

Other min­is­ters are un­der­stood to have ques­tioned why a na­tional Covid-19 com­mu­ni­ca­tion cam­paign sim­i­lar to road safety ad­ver­tis­ing has yet to be in­tro­duced.

There is an ex­pec­ta­tion that a Cabi­net meet­ing may be called over the week­end to dis­cuss the in­tro­duc­tion of new reg­u­la­tions.

This will be de­cided af­ter to­day’s Cabi­net sub com­mit­tee meet­ing.

Mean­while, Min­is­ter of State at the Of­fice of Pub­lic Works Pa­trick O’Dono­van in­sisted the Gov­ern­ment can­not be blamed for the spread of the virus.

“Level 5, or Level 6, or Level 7– it doesn’t mat­ter what level we go to un­less we all act re­spon­si­bly in this,” he said.

“The Gov­ern­ment re­sponds to trends in which the virus presents it­self, and tries to do as much as it can.

“We all need to col­lec­tively re­duce the spread of it, but Gov­ern­ment does not have the cure for this.

“Gov­ern­ment can’t com­bat this on its own. We can ad­vise, we can put the tools in place and we can put the money in place, but the only peo­ple that can sup­press the virus are the Ir­ish peo­ple,” he added.

Fine Gael TD Alan Far­rell tweeted: “It ap­pears that Nphet are brief­ing the me­dia again – ahead of its pri­mary func­tion of ad­vis­ing Cabi­net

– caus­ing spec­u­la­tion and worry.

“If this leak­ing con­tin­ues, ques­tions must be asked as to whether or not the body is fit for pur­pose in its cur­rent form.”

Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen op­posed Level 5, urg­ing: “Re­tain Level 3, work with it, im­ple­ment it, ad­here to it. Mov­ing to 4 or 5 is run­ning and hid­ing from Covid.”

His col­league, Jim O’Cal­laghan, also re­peated his op­po­si­tion to Level 5.

No blame: Pa­trick O’Dono­van

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