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“We are preparing a plan”: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says the economy may reopen soon


by Shayna Sappington
22nd Apr 2020
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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar updates the country on the current pandemic, how long lockdown restrictions will last and the government’s plan for reopening the economy


Speaking on RTÉ’s Prime Time last night, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar reassured the public that, if things continue to improve, the Irish economy will start reopening soon.

It will be a slow process, he urged, not wanting to get anyone’s hopes up or make any guarantees. 

“There won’t be any change to the restrictions until 5 May,” he reminded. “But at the moment we are preparing a plan which we’ll have ready before then which will set out in a step-wise fashion, how we will reopen our economy, how we will reopen our society.”

One step at a time

Everyone wants to know when things will be back to normal, but unfortunately, officials can’t say just yet. We will have to take things slowly, lifting restrictions one phase at a time. 

“I think everyone understands it won’t be done in one go, in one fell swoop,” Varadkar said. “It won’t be back to normal on day one.”

For example, vital bans on large gatherings will remain in place until later this year. It was recently announced that all mass gatherings of over 5,000 people will be banned until September 1.

Instead, the first places to be reopened will be “the most benefit to our economy and society but the least risk in public health terms,” the Taoiseach assured.

Three important factors

Before restrictions are relaxed, he said the government will be looking at three important factors: the rate of increase of the virus must continue to slow down, hospitals must have the capacity to deal with a surge if anything worsens and testing and tracing must be a priority.

While the first two of these boxes are being ticked, Varadkar hopes to focus on improving the number of tests available and the ability to trace all those the infected have come in contact with.

The Taoiseach went on to say that the Irish government is monitoring how other nations like Germany and Denmark are approaching the reopening phase, learning from their mistakes and seeing what has worked best for them.

Flattening the curve

Encouraging the public, he reassured that the State is in a much better position to handle the economic flux than it was during the global recession over ten years ago.

It should be able to sustain the high unemployment rate as long as the government can continue to borrow at affordable rates, Varadkar said.

Hopefully, the number of cases will decrease over the next few weeks as people continue to honour lockdown protocols and the easing of restrictions can begin to take effect next month.

But if things reopen, the Taoiseach said, businesses need to implement a social distancing plan “for a very long time”.

 

Read more: Coronavirus update: 55% have fully recovered from Covid-19

Read more: These photos of #emptystreets are a poignant reminder that we’re all in this together

Read more: Coronavirus: Minister for Health Simon Harris warns becoming complacent could be ‘fatal’

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