Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Tomas Doherty

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has unveiled the Government’s revised plan for managing the coronavirus pandemic and leading the country out of lockdown in the months ahead.

The plan, titled Covid-19 Resilience and Recovery 2021: The Path Ahead, sets out how in-school education and childcare services will be reinstated in phases from March 1st.

Here are the key details and dates to remember.

Lockdown restrictions

The Cabinet agreed that Level 5 restrictions will be extended until April 5th.

There will be no major lifting of restrictions before then.

Schools and childcare

In-school education and childcare services will be reinstated in phases from March 1st, with a staggered return throughout March to be concluded after the Easter break on April 12th. 

The key dates for parents and children are:

March 1st

  • Special schools will be at 100 per cent capacity
  • Junior and senior infants, first and second class to return to school
  • Final year Leaving Certificate classes to return to school, subject to final agreement

March 8th

  • Resumption of the Early Childhood Care and Education Programme (ECCE) programme and return to school of ECCE-age children

March 15th

  • Third, fourth, fifth and sixth class at primary level
  • Fifth year secondary students to return to school

March 29th

  • Early learning and care, and school-age childcare services to reopen

April 12th

  • First to fourth years at secondary level set to return to school

Economic measures

All the main measures used to support business and those unable to work during the pandemic will be extended until June 30th. These include:

  • Pandemic Unemployment Payment
  • Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme
  • Covid-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit
  • Covid Restrictions Support Scheme
  • Suspension of redundancy provisions
  • Commercial rates waiver

Vaccination programme

The Taoiseach said more than 350,000 doses have been administered and a “major ramping up” will commence.

This will include small local GP surgeries and pharmacists, and community and regional vaccination centres.

“We are implementing a programme of vaccination on a scale that is unprecedented in the country’s history,” Mr Martin said.

“By the end of March, we will have administered 1.25 million doses, then depending on vaccines arriving as scheduled, we would administer on average more than one million doses per month during April, May and June.”

He said they aim to have administered first doses to 40 per cent of people over the age of 18 by the end of April, 64 per cent by the end of May and up to 82 per cent of adults by the end of June.

Review of restrictions

The Government will review the current restrictions ahead of April 5th.

If the transmission of the virus reaches acceptable levels, the vaccination programme progresses as planned and public health advice allows, it will consider further options from April 5th.

This could include:

  • Some easing of restrictions on outdoor activities and meetings beyond one other household
  • Consideration of extending the current 5km limit
  • Staggered easing of other areas – a focus on outdoor activities, including sport and some areas of construction.

Any further easing of restrictions after April 5th will need a further three-to-four week period to allow for assessment of the impact of changes.

The requirement to work from home will continue throughout this period.

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