The Taoiseach has warned that any easing of COVID-19 restrictions will happen in a gradual manner.
Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Leo Varadkar said complacency is “our new enemy” in the battle to contain the outbreak.
It comes amid speculation that the ban on essential travel may be modified after May 5th, with people permitted to go further than the 2km radius.
Meanwhile, older people may be allowed to venture out for exercise.
Mr Varadkar said any changes will come in gradual steps.
“The easing of public health measures will be gradual and will be done in a step-wise manner,” he said.
“It will require continuous effort by all of us to suppress and control this virus,” he said.
“We will not necessarily mirror the manner in which they were escalated and we must leave a period of time between taking each step so we can monitor their impact and act if necessary.”
Some good news: The reproductive rate has fallen even further to between 0.5 and 1. At beginning of April, 100 people a day were being admitted to hospital with #COVID19. That is now reduced to 40. The next 12 days matter and what you do matters. Stay the course and #StayAtHome
— Simon Harris TD (@SimonHarrisTD) April 23, 2020
He said the growth rate of the disease is now down to between 0.7 and 1 and confirmed that more people have now recovered from the virus than have it.
He also said there has been no increase in the number of people in intensive care in recent days.
“This means that our collective national effort is working and we are suppressing the disease in our communities,” he said.
“We have been battered by a wave of destruction but as a people we have endured.”
Last night, the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said we could “lose all of the ground we have made” in the fight against the virus if people ease up on following the guidelines now.
The Taoiseach echoed those fears today.
“Today, our new enemy is complacency,” he said.
“The real risk is that if we become lax in the next few days and weeks, we could lose control over the spread of the virus.
“So far, we have not been able to slow transmission of the virus in every setting and its impact in long-term care residential facilities – both nursing homes and other care facilities is great.”
He said officials would do everything possible to avoid a “post-peak wave or a deadly second wave.”
“When this is over, we will awaken our society and our economy and the actions we take to do so must be taken in a safe, appropriate, phased and timely way,” he said.
The National Public Health Emergency Team has set out four criteria for consideration before easing restrictions
- The level of transmission, including in residential care homes
- The number of patients in intensive care
- Testing and contact tracing capacity
- Hospital capacity