Tuesday, January 05, 2021

An Taoiseach, Michaél Martin, who was interviewed on today’s ‘News At One’ programme.

THE current prevalence of Covid-19 is likely to lead to a “really significant reduction of mobility of people in this country” similar to the levels experienced in March of last year, according to Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

Speaking on RTE Radio’s ‘News At One’ programme, Mr Martin told Bryan Dobson: “In other words, we really have to say to people, you’ve got to stay at home over the next number of weeks bar essential purposes. That’s the essential consensus that’s emanating the cabinet Covid Committee will examine this today in greater detail; I do not want to pre-empt that because ministers will have their inputs and I’ve been discussing this with ministers over the last 48 hours. And then the cabinet will formally decide tomorrow in relation to measures that will be adopted in terms of schools and in terms of other areas as well as of the economy.”

Asked if such reduced mobility can be achieved without keeping schools closed for a further period, Mr Martin replied: “The Chief Medical Officer (Tony Holohan) and myself are in agreement that there is an issue in terms of having a million people on the go which is essentially what opening schools means and a million people are out there in the community. And given the rapidity of the spread of the disease and given what we’re witnessing elsewhere and other jurisdictions in terms of that rapidity and that growth, one has to really measure the advisability of doing that, and that’s why it is on the agenda today, that we would extend out the closure of schools to the end of the month in terms of our school going population because I think we know that vaccines are there, we have the vaccine situation. Now that we know we can protect life, much more effectively in terms of the roll-out of the vaccination programme as well as public health guidelines. I think we have to we have to err on the side of course of caution now.”

The school situation

The prospect of all schools and all school children staying at home for the duration of the latest lockdown is, at the very least “on the agenda today,” the Taoiseach conceded. Mr Martin added: “We are looking at special education, and we will have further engagements with the sector to see what measures we can do to help families with children with special needs in particular because we’re talking about much lower numbers but we do know from the first lockdown that many families and many children with special needs regressed significantly and were under considerable strain through the closure of special needs education so we will look at that; those are the kind of issues that we want to give a greater level of detail consideration to at the meeting this afternoon. We also want to hear from the HSE in an update there and from Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan and his team.”

Asked as to when schools might realistically re-open, the Taoiseach stated: “As I said, when we bought in Level Five measures on the eve of Christmas, we identified the 30th of January as a review date, and that will still be a review date in terms of the wide level of measures that we have introduced and that obviously would include schools.”

“We need to think beyond next week.”

Mr Martin, a former school teacher, told Bryan Dobson: “I’m fully conscious of the decision that we’re being asked to take today and tomorrow, but I do so to preserve the school year right through; we’ve to think beyond next week and the week after, we have to think to the end of the term we have to think of the Leaving Certificate (and) of the examinations. Schools are safe. But the point I referenced earlier is about the mobilisation of a million people in the context of a very high level of disease out there in the community. That’s the context for the decision making now. And I think given all of the debate about the new strain and with the presentation given last evening by the British Prime Minister how dominant that is now in the UK scenario, that we have to be extra vigilant and extra careful and we also owe it to our frontline healthcare workers that the most effective way now to reduce hospitalisations in the coming period and the spread of the disease is literally to say to people, bar essential purposes, to stay at home.”

We’ll have more from the Taoiseach’s latest interview to follow

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