Restricting visitors to households helped reduce the spread of coronavirus and the Government must “bear that in mind” as it seeks to lift Level 5 restrictions, said Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
Mr. Martin said the Government will make a decision either Thursday or Friday on how to exit the six-week lock-in period after hearing advice from the State’s National Public Health Crisis Team.
Cabinet is meeting on Tuesday to hear the views of Government ministers on lifting the Covid-19 restrictions ahead of the meeting with Nphet.
“Nphet will give its advice but the Government will decide how we leave Level 5,” Mr Martin told visiting reporters to inspect the Department of Agriculture’s post-Brexit border check facilities at Dublin Port.
The Taoiseach said that the chair of the Government’s vaccine task force, Professor Brian MacCraith, had told him that he hoped to have a strategy on vaccine distribution ready by December 11th.
The Taoiseach said that “the national effort” to “get vaccines out properly and safely” will be needed with the cooperation of various State agencies once the vaccines have come through the safety approvals.
Mr Martin warned that the arrival of vaccines was not “the moment to relax” but rather the “doubling” time on efforts to prevent the spread of the virus.
Meetings this week will “work out the exit from Level 5 at the end of this month” which is the Government’s target and objective, he said.
When asked about Government discussions on how to exit the lockdown on December 1st, Mr Martin said she had looked at how the virus spread in August, September and October.
“Super-disperser events” such as gatherings and audiences including alcohol-related events have been shown to spread the virus, he said.
“Ultimately, surveillance is key, human behavior is key,” he said. “What has emerged the restriction of visitors to households seems to have had an impact so we need to bear that in mind as we move through December.”
He acknowledged that restrictions on visiting had been “very difficult for people.”
“The good news is what you’re doing works. We manage our hospitals in terms of ICU numbers, in terms of hospital admissions. We have kept our schools open, ”he said.
The Taoiseach said the initial strategy of Level 3 restrictions on mixing homes and then Level 5 restrictions “worked and worked.”
“There has been a narrative about this that I don’t think has been helpful or accurate. It has worked. We brought the numbers well down, ”he said.
“Do we want to go lower? Of course we do and we have another week to reduce the numbers. ”
Mr Martin also said he expects RTE executives to appear before the Oireachtas media committee to discuss Covid-19 social isolation cuts by high-profile presenters at a retirement event.
This would be “the required sequence,” he said. He reiterated his view that the guidelines had been “very disappointing” but acknowledged that there had been “valid apologies from all concerned.”