Government to meet on Monday to discuss Covid-19 restrictions

A meeting of Government leaders has broken up without any decision on the level of restrictions to be put in place in the country.

Government sources said no announcement would be made this evening, and there is no Cabinet meeting scheduled for Sunday. Cabinet will meet on Monday to discuss the next steps.

Senior sources said that on Saturday six of the most senior politicians in the State examined the options available to the Government and the implications of the decisions to be taken, amid concerns over the rate of growth of the coronavirus in the Republic.

The meeting was preceded by a private consultation between the State’s top two public health doctors and the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin. There were briefings provided by senior members of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) and HSE chief executive Paul Reid.

Speaking as he left the meeting, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the Goverment shares concerns around the increasing numbers, which he said are also occuring across Europe and the rest of the world.

“Government has to balance up a whole range of variables. Yes we have to look at the impact of the virus but also the impacts in so many different ways on society and how we respond to it,” he said.

A Government press statement following the meeting said presentations were given on the situation across the country concerning the virus as well as on the economic, employment and society wide implications of moving to more severe restrictions.

“The Health team briefed Ministers that children were safer in schools, transmission rates are low, and that the continued opening of schools is very important to the development and wellbeing of children and young people,” the statement said.

While no decisions have been taken, there is a growing expectation among some Cabinet ministers that the country will be moved to a higher level of alert in the coming days, but that it will fall short of the Level 5 for six weeks recommendation made by the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).

Sources said that pushback is expected over implementing some elements of Level 5, such as the closure of some sectors of the economy, and the stipulation that people must not travel more than five kilometres from their home. The six week duration recommended by Nphet is also likely to be resisted.

A briefing of Fine Gael cabinet ministers by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, scheduled to take place at 7pm on Saturday, has been pushed back to 11am Sunday.