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Everything you need to know about the revised Living With Covid plan

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that the end of the pandemic is "truly in sight” as he announces a revised plan to lead the country out of lockdown.


by Jennifer McShane
23rd Feb 2021

The Government has launched its revised plan for living with the virus: COVID-19 Resilience and Recovery 2021: The Path Ahead with an address from Taoiseach Micheál Martin who said 82 per cent of people will have received their first Covid-19 vaccine by the end of June.

Announcing the extension of Level 5 restrictions until April 5th, and the phased return of in-school teaching, Martin said the Government knows that people are “physically and emotionally exhausted by this pandemic.”

He added that a careful and cautious approach was being taken to ensure, “that when we ease each particular restriction we take a careful approach to ensure when we open something, it stays open.”

Essentially, after these current restrictions, due to be reviewed before April 5th, the Government will consider easing the 5km travel limit and easing restrictions on people meeting outdoors and outdoor sports. In the interim, he said there would be a “major ramping up” of the vaccination programme, which has seen over 350,000 vaccine doses administered to date.

Around 1.25 million doses will have been administered by the end of March. Then, depending on vaccines arriving as scheduled, on average, more than one million doses per month will be administered during April, May and June.

By the end of May, up to 64% will have had their first dose and by the end of June, up to 82% of adults who can be vaccinated will have received at least one dose and 55% to 60% will be fully vaccinated,” the Taoiseach said.

People who can work from home are being asked to continue to do so.

Here are the key elements of the plan:

Schools

From next Monday (March 1st) junior infants, senior infants, first class and second class in primary school and Leaving Cert students in sixth year in second-level will return.

From March 15th, all primary school children may begin returning with a return for fifth years also expected at this point.  The remainder of secondary school students won’t be returning to school until after the Easter holidays.

Childcare

On March 8th, the Early Childhood Care and Education programme will reopen.

Towards the end of the month, on March 29th, early learning and care, and school-age childcare services will reopen.

Key factors

There are four key factors in the new plan for easing restrictions. The first is the prevalence of the virus in the country and infection rate among those who test positive. The second factor will be the impact of the virus on the health service and, in particular, ICU bed capacity. The roll-out of the vaccination programme is the third factor that will be reviewed. And finally, any and all information on new coronavirus variants will be reviewed.

After 5 April

The plan outlines that should all the above factors be met, the further options that will be “considered” are extending the current 5km limit, some easing of restrictions on outdoor activities and meetings beyond 1 other household and a staggered start of easing of other areas of restriction – with a focus on outdoor activities including sport and some areas of construction.

Any further easing of restrictions after this period will need a further three to four week period to allow for assessment of the impact of changes, according to the plan.

Support services

An additional €20 million in funding will be made available to meet the increase for mental health services.

The following supports “as safety nets”  will also be extended until 30 June:

– Pandemic Unemployment Payment

– Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme

– Covid-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit

– Covid Restrictions Support Scheme

– Suspension of redundancy provisions

– Commercial rates waiver

“We just need to stay focused, and get through these next few months, safely, together,” Martin added.

“I know how hard this is. I know the toll that it is having on so many people’s mental health and well being. I know the devastation it has brought to so many businesses and livelihoods. But I also know that the end is now truly in sight… We will get through this.”

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