Taoiseach says he understands people are 'fed up' but urges public to stick with Level 5 restrictions

Taoiseach Micheal Martin has said he understood people were completely "fed up" with the restrictions on their lives.

In an address to the nation this evening he set out the Government's 'Resilience and Recovery - The Path Ahead' plan and said the month of March must be used to dramatically reduce the case number and increase the speed of vaccination rollout.

The Key Points

Phased return to schools starting on March 1st

PUP and business supports continued until end of June.

1.25m doses to be administered by end of March - 4.5m doses by end of Q2.

Sticking with Level 5 until April 5...

The Cabinet has agreed to extend Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions until 5th April. However, the phased return of schools will get under way next Monday, 1st March.

The phased return will see Leaving Cert students returning to school next week. Primary school students from junior infants to second class will also return then.

The early childhood pre-school scheme will resume on 8 March with all childcare returning on 29 March.

Remaining primary school students and fifth-year secondary school students will return on 15th March, subject to ongoing reviews.

All other secondary school students will go back to school on 12 April - after the Easter holidays.

Following that the 5km limit extended at that point, outdoor meet-ups, more construction and more sport.

Speaking from Govt Buildings, Micheal Martin said:

"As I speak to you this evening. I'm very conscious that I'm speaking to a country that has endured almost 12 months of Covid-related restrictions. Almost ,6200 of our families, friends and neighbours across the entire island have lost their lives to this disease.

"I know that people are physically and emotionally exhausted by this pandemic.

"We have faced enormous pressure, each of us individually and as a society, businesses and workers are deeply worried about the future. And we are all completely fed up with the impositions on our lives. What I want to do this evening is set out in clear straightforward terms, where we are. What is going to happen over the next six weeks, and where we would like to go from there.

"We want to reopen society. As soon. And as safely as possible.

"So if we can maintain downward pressure on the disease and keep our numbers low. We will then move into the next phase.

"There are a number of areas where we will be assessing progress. When considering what changes may be possible.

"The government will examine where they have to begin easing to spend on outdoor gatherings. Some sporting activities, we will look at the gradual reopening of construction, and we would like to move on to five key limit on non essential journeys.

The areas which will influence how we progress as funnels. The first is community transmission of the disease. We need to use the month of March, to really drive down case numbers and get them as low as possible. Next we will look at hospital and and ICU and see our health service has been under truly extraordinary pressure as have the men and women who make it work.

"We remain deeply grateful for their heroic effort.

We need to continue to reduce the numbers of people in hospital because of Covid, so that we can protect our health service and allow for non Covid healthcare to restart safe.

"And finally, the all important vaccination program.

The Taoiseach said the Govt hoped to rollout 4.5m doses in by the end of Q2.

"Our commitment is to deliver as fast. This comprehensive vaccination program as possible so far our role has been supplying the most of our people being vaccinated, are those who are most vulnerable to the disease."

SCHOOLS AND CHILDCARE

1st March - Special schools at 100% capacity. Junior and senior infants, 1st and 2nd class to return to school. Final year Leaving Certificate classes to return to school subject to final agreement

8th March - Resumption of the ECCE programme and return to school of ECCE-age children

15th March - 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th class at primary level. 5th year post-primary students to return to school

29th March - Early learning and care, and school-age childcare services to reopen

12 April - 1st to 4th years post-primary return to school.

More to follow...

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