Varadkar says next easing of Covid-19 restrictions will be ‘extremely limited’

Fine Gael meeting told reopening may only involve phased return to schools and childcare

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said the next easing of Covid-19 restrictions will be "extremely limited" and may only involve the phased return to schools and pre-school childcare.

He made the remarks at a private meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party on Wednesday evening.

Sources said Mr Varadkar told TDs and Senators that Leaving Certificate students would return to school first followed by younger primary school pupils.

Hospital Report

According to Mr Varadkar the phased return to schools would happen over March and into April.


There would also be a return to creches for pre-school children in the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) scheme under the limited easing of restrictions outlined by the Fine Gael leader.

Mr Varadkar also cast doubt on the reopening of non-essential construction sites in March if Covid-19 case numbers are in the region of 400 per day.

He also told the meeting there are no decisions made on this as yet

The current Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions are due to remain in place until March 5th.

Efforts are ongoing to try to bring about a return to schools for Leaving Cert students at the start of March, depending on the agreement of teaching unions.

Sources said Mr Varadkar questioned whether political parties which have been strong advocates of the zero-Covid approach would be opposed to the reopening of schools.

He said that there will be an assessment every two to three weeks on the phased opening of schools.

Mr Varadkar said that Covid-19 numbers are falling but not as fast as they were and the country is still above the peak of the first wave.

He said there was a need for more detailed information and communications for those in line for vaccines and that this will be put in place.

The meeting was told that all over-85s will be vaccinated in the coming weeks.

Mr Varadkar also gave an update on the estimated number of doses of Covid-19 vaccines expected to be delivered in the coming months.

He said a million doses per month are expected in April, May and June, while stressing that it will depend on supply from the pharmaceutical companies.

Limerick TDs Patrick O’Donovan and Kieran O’Donnell complained that none of the 37 planned vaccination centres announced by the Government this week will be located in their county.

The centre that is to serve the city and county is to be in the Radisson Hotel which is over the border in Co Clare.

Minister of State for the Office of Public Works Mr O’Donovan said the county has 200,000 people and some are being left with a 100mile round trip to Clare to be vaccinated.

He pointed out that Co Wicklow, the constituency of the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, has two vaccination centres despite having a smaller population.

Mr O’Donnell said there must be “consistency” in the plans for the centres’ locations and the vaccine rollout.

He raised concern over the accessibility of the Radisson and said Limerick needs to have a centre located in the county as well and made a comparison with Cork which is to have five centres.

Mr Varadkar also said that a two-island strategy for tackling Covid-19 would “make so much sense” but would require all five jurisdictions to be in line with each other.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times