Level Five restrictions will remain throughout the Republic of Ireland until the 5th of April, at least, the Taoiseach has confirmed.
Addressing the nation from Government buildings, Taoiseach Micheál Martin (FF) confirmed that the lockdown measures would continue. He detailed that in order to reopen the country safely numbers of COVID-19 cases must reduce while the roll-out of the vaccine must proceed at the planned rate.
He outlined that the country would remain in Level 5 until the start of April with “three very important differences”. This included the phased re-opening of schools, resumption of childcare services and a continued roll-out of the vaccine.
Students from Junior Infants to Second Class along with Leaving Certificate students will return to school on Monday. The early childcare programme will resume a week later on Monday (March 8th). “When we open things, we want them to stay open, that is why I cannot over-emphasise the continued observance to Level 5 restrictions,” the Taoiseach stated.
A review will be held prior to April 5th to determine if the measures will continue. The return of construction work, outdoor gatherings and some form of sporting activity are among the items that may be permitted from this date along with an extension of the 5km limit.
In order for measures to be eased, the Taoiseach said community transmission must be driven down in the month of March to bring down case numbers, hospital and ICU occupancy must fall while the vaccine programme must continue as planned, he said.
He outlined that it is intended to administer 1.25 million doses by end of April with 1 million doses to be administered per month in April, May and June. 82 percent of adults will have their first dose by the end of June, Taoiseach Martin noted.
“We will get through this. We just need to stay focussed, and get through these next few months, safely, together. I know how hard this is. I know the toll that it is having on so many people’s mental health and well being. I know the devastation it has brought to so many businesses and livelihoods. But I also know that the end is now truly in sight. We have already shown what a remarkably resilient people we are. We have drawn on a deep innate sense of community and solidarity to get us this far. That’s why, I know, that we will get through this,” Martin declared.
Phase Return to In School Education
The phased return of in-school education and childcare services will be implemented as follows:
1st March 2021:
- Special schools to resume at 100% capacity.
- The first four classes at primary level i.e. Junior and Senior infants, First and Second class to return to in-school education.
- Final year Leaving Certificate classes to return to in-school education subject to final agreement.
8th March 2021
- Resumption of the ECCE Programme and return of ECCE-age children
15th March 2021
- Targeted return of 3rd; 4th; 5th and 6th class at primary level. 5th years at post-primary level.
29th March 2021
- Resumption of all other early learning and childcare services
12th April onwards (post Easter Holidays)
- Reopening for 1st to 4th years at post-primary.
- Early Years and School Aged Childcare
The staggered resumption of early learning and childcare services will take place over the following phases:
- Resumption of the ECCE Programme and return of ECCE-age children from 8 March
- Resumption of all other early learning and childcare services from 29 March.
- The resumption of the ECCE Programme from 8 March broadly aligns with the resumption of onsite primary schooling. It is also in line with expectation among providers and offers sufficient time for providers to prepare to reopen.
Over the coming period, Government will continue to support workers by:
- Extending the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme, currently scheduled to close on 31 March 2021, to 30 June 2021.
- Extending the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, currently scheduled to close on 31 March 2021, to 30 June 2021 for current recipients, and continue to allow new entrants to join the Payment.
- Extending the COVID-19 enhanced illness benefit, currently scheduled to end on 31 March 2021, to 30 June 2021.
- Extending the COVID Restrictions Support Scheme, scheduled to close on 31 March 2021, to 30 June 2021 and will conduct an economic assessment of the scheme in line with the statutory requirements on the impact, design and sustainability of this important support.
- Continuing to provide significant supports, through loans, grants, vouchers and support schemes to business affected by the pandemic, and to keep such supports under review as the situation develops
- Extending the suspension of redundancy provisions, currently in place to 31 March 2021, to 30 June 2021, in order to help avoid further permanent job losses at a time when approximately 480,000 people are in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.
- Extending the current commercial rates waiver for a further three months for those businesses most seriously affected by the restrictions.
Local Communities and Local Delivery
- A further Stability Fund for Community and Voluntary Organisations top-up of €10 million will be made available to enable continuity of critical service delivery to vulnerable groups.
Wellbeing and Mental Health
- Auxiliary mental health supports will continue to be offered remotely to ensure those in isolation can access assistance when needed. An additional €10 million in funding will be made available to meet the increase in demand being experienced