Reporting by Press Association
Lockdown restrictions will not be eased at the end of the month, the Taoiseach has confirmed.
Micheál Martin also confirmed that talks had taken place regarding the introduction of new restrictions on travel into the Republic.
Speaking at Government Buildings, Mr Martin said current Level 5 restrictions were set to stay in place into the month of February.
“Certainly there is no talk at the moment in terms of any relaxation or reversing of restrictions at the end of this month,” he said.
“We are looking at a continuation of restrictions into February. You can take it that we’ll take stock every four weeks of the situation.”
The Government’s Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19 will meet on Monday to discuss the extension of the current restrictions, which were originally due to remain in place until January 31st. A final decision will be made on Tuesday following a Cabinet meeting.
Mr Martin added: “Given the high level of community transmission out there still, and it is very high out there, I don’t think one can envisage any significant relaxation of restrictions at this particular point in time.”
Friday saw a further 52 deaths and 2,371 new cases of Covid-19 reported by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).
As of Friday night, there were 1,969 people with the disease in hospital, including 218 in intensive care.
Mr Martin indicated that schools would not reopen on February 1st and that the Government was focusing its attention on trying to resume classes for pupils with special educational needs as soon as possible.
Asked when schools were likely to reopen Mr Martin said: “I really don’t want to pre-empt the Cabinet committee meeting on Monday, but clearly community transmission levels are very high.
“The focus right now and the attention of the Minister for Education is on special schools and special education, working with the partners in education to see if we can develop a proposal around special education provision.”
He said Education Minister Norma Foley was continuing to engage with teachers’ unions and other educational partners, adding that they “still share a combined objective, to make provision for children with special needs as soon as that’s possible”.
Questioned on travel restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19, Mr Martin rejected any move to seal the Border between the Republic and Northern Ireland.
However, he indicated there was a possibility of pursuing a “two-island” solution to mandatory quarantining alongside the UK, with “very exploratory and very embryonic” talks ongoing.
Mr Martin confirmed Cabinet is considering introducing mandatory quarantining for people who come into the country without proof of a negative PCR test. It is also looking into suspending visa-free travel for some countries.
The Government has faced increased pressure to introduce new restrictions on international travel amid the spread of new variants of the virus.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), new variants of the disease have contributed to the recent surge of infection seen in Ireland and the UK.
There is evidence that a new variant first identified in the UK and now widespread in Ireland is linked to a higher level of mortality, the British prime minister Boris Johnson said on Friday evening.
Ireland’s deputy chief medical officer has come out in support of stricter measures, saying that mandatory quarantine should be introduced for people coming into the Republic.
A Government source has said that “nothing is being ruled out”, in relation to tightening rules on incoming travel.