A colour-coded coronavirus response system being prepared by the Government will work similarly to the Met Éireann weather warning system, according to the Health Minister.
NPHET has produced a proposal for the new system, with the Government now working on a plan to implement it as part of efforts to develop a medium-term plan for managing the virus.
Speaking on The Pat Kenny Show, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said the system would be based around four colours which could be applied to different parts of the country depending on the level of COVID-19 risk:
- Yellow, similar to where most of the country is right now with general restrictions in place
- Orange, which is a 'heightened state' similar to the current restrictions in Laois, Kildare and Offaly
- Red, which would mean 'stay at home' warnings similar to the lockdown in March and April
- Blue, which means a coronavirus vaccine has been widely rolled out and the virus has been suppressed
Minister Donnelly confirmed the system will be able to be implemented on a regional or county-by-county basis.
He explained: "The colour-coding system is something that says ‘let’s now take a longer-term view’ - it could be nine months, it could be two years, we don’t know.
"It really depends when a vaccine is not only developed, but is available and has been taken by sufficient numbers here.
“It makes things much clearer: it allows us all to take a look at the island and say ‘where are we at as a country? How is my region doing? How is my local area doing?
“We’ve all got used to Met Éireann telling us there are various wind warnings or storm warnings… it allows us all to look at the same information."
'Needs to be understandable'
Minister Donnelly stressed that the exact details of the system haven't been worked at yet - such as which 'colour' would mean major restrictions such as school closures.
He said: "Measures are being put together sector by sector. A lot of work has to be done to turn this into something that is understandable… when an area moves into one of these, the response by sector has to be different as well."
The Health Minister also said the system could help anticipate any further local lockdowns in the futre.
He said: “We have a choice: we can wait and do nothing, and in those cases asymptomatic carriers will carry it into the community…. ultimately you end up back where we all were in March and April.
“By moving early and detecting this early, we can move in a localised way and bring in a much less restrictive set of measures.
"If you look at what’s happening in Kildare, Laois and Offaly right now, whilst awful for the people living there, it’s much lighter than what we all had to live through in March / April time."