Jack Quann
Jack Quann

08.54 17 Oct 2020


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Minister of State Thomas Byrne has said the difference between level three and level five coronavirus restrictions 'isn't as big as some people think'.

It comes as the Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and a group of senior ministers are meeting to consider whether to move the country to level five restrictions.

It is the second time in recent weeks that health officials have recommended a strict lockdown, amid continuing increases in coronavirus cases and associated hospitalisations.

Depty Byrne told Newstalk Breakfast with Susan Keogh the high-level meeting on Saturday is to "look at all the ramifications of this, to see have we gone through level three enough, to see what are the financial consequences of level five and obviously the health consequences are primary.

"But I don't think it really matters what level we're in, because the basics remain the same.

"The basics are the basics - mask-wearing, washing hands, keeping distance - but particularly at the moment visitors to homes, except where someone needs [to], there's an essential reason to visit a home.

"But social visits to a home should not happen".

Minister Byrne said Ireland is already ahead of most other European countries with restrictions.

But he said some of his party colleagues - such as Barry Cowen - make a good argument to remain at level three.

"We are actually ahead of many European countries in terms of the measures that we have in place, already at level three with the additional measures and indeed at level four in some areas.

"Even European countries like Belgium, like the Czech Republic - as far as I know - that have much higher levels than us still don't have the restrictions in place that we have.

"So there's certainly an argument for what my colleagues are saying - a very good argument - but I think the medical advice needs to be looked at as well".

'Making a good decision'

Deputy Byrne said the Taoiseach wants to make a good decision, rather than a quick one.

"What I do know is that the Taoiseach, speaking to him during the week, wants to make a good decision - and I think a good decision can only be taken when you consider all of the other matters, when you talk to other ministers, then when Government as a whole takes the decision.

"It won't be NPHET and it won't be the Cabinet subcommittee that will make a decision, it's the Government as a whole that will make a decision".

"But at the moment, the restrictions are pretty strict."

"In fact, really for most people - obviously apart from retail, which is a big change - the difference between level three and level five isn't as big as some people think.

"The restrictions at the moment are pretty strict".

Mr Martin said on Friday the NPHET recommendation was being 'actively considered' by the Government.

"The situation is very serious and we will need further action in relation to this.

"The Government will give this very detailed consideration examining all aspects", he said.

He said he 'doesn't want to put a timeline' on when a decision might be made on level five restrictions - saying it is a massive call and they want to consider all the detail of it first.

NPHET has recommended every county moves to that level.

It comes after another 1,000 cases of the coronavirus were confirmed here on Friday, along with three more deaths.

Main image: People wearing face masks in Dublin city. Picture by: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

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Coronavirus Level Five Level Five Restrictions Micheál Martin NPHET Newstalk Breakfast Thomas Byrne

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