BreakingNews report Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said Ireland’s COVID situation is currently “far worse” than at the end of November. He told his party that the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in Ireland are “a definite cause for concern”. On Wednesday night, a meeting of the Fine Gael party heard that the government must consider this, before any decision on easing restrictions is made.
Varadkar has said the government is seriously concerned about the possibility of a fourth wave of COVID-19 before the summer. Cabinet will decide on Tuesday whether or not any restrictions can be eased in April, with a number of Ministers believing the 5km travel rule should be scrapped.
Attendees heard that case numbers, hospital admissions, intensive care unit numbers and vaccination progress will all be taken into account. Varadkar said over 700,000 vaccines have been administered across the nation, with more than 10% having already received their first dose.
Speaking on the topic of lowering restrictions, the Tánaiste believes there are some important issues to be dealt with. Keeping schools open, people’s mental health and some extra freedoms were atop the agenda for Varadkar, according to sources of Independent.ie. Mandatory hotel quarantine comes into place this week, and Varadkar said its introduction will mean Ireland has the strictest travel rules in the EU.
Any potential international vaccine export ban is also seen as a concern by Varadkar, who warned against such a move, believing it could leave everyone worse off. The Tánaiste said he will discuss this during the online EPP summit with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday.
Varadkar Concerned Over The Rising Case Numbers
Level 5 restrictions were lifted on December 1st, when the national 14-day incidence rate was 87 per 100,000. According to the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), the rate now stands at 159.3 per 100,000, which concerns Varadkar.
Micheál Martin agrees with Varadkar and raised his concerns over the rising number of COVID cases, and a sharp increase in the number of people being tested. The Taoiseach believes this has left progress against the disease in a fragile state and, is concerned of the 42% week-on-week increase of people referred for testing.
Despite their attempts to address the issues, both Mr Martin and Mr Varadkar came under pressure from party members. They faced calls to replace the national lockdown with localised restrictions, a relaxation of rules on religious services and more certainty on when restrictions could be eased as vaccines supplies stabilised.
A decision is set to be made by the government next Tuesday, of the restrictions that could be in place after April 5th. NPHET’s Wednesday meeting on restrictions had been deferred until next Monday, due to the changing situation of COVID-19 data.